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Interview with Caroline Reid

My first theatre experience was… there wasn’t much theatre to experience in Kalgoorlie when I was growing up. Music was my first love and that’s what my Welsh mother really encouraged. The man presently known as Kevin Bloody Wilson was exceptional in the promotion of music in Kal. He taught guitar to school children, myself included, and started an annual talent expo - choirs, bands, instrumentalists, singers, all these young people performing in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall. It was so popular. Goes to show how much the people of the Goldfields were crying out for a bit of culture. I came to theatre late and sort of by accident. The first play I remember seeing is Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, starring a young Jeremy Simms when he was an undergraduate at UWA. It was entertaining but also quite bewildering. All those words. I didn’t completely understand it. But I knew I liked it.

If I was a character in a play I’d be… Martha in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Messy, shrill, sexy, hysterical, tough, dependent and vulnerable. A potent mix.

I hate theatre when… I’m picked for audience participation. Though secretly I love it.

Playwrights who inspire me… Any playwright with a poetic soul inspires me and it helps if there’s lashings of black humour and offensive passages. When I was first discovering theatre I was naturally drawn to Brecht, Shephard, Mamet, Lorca, Beckett and Patrick White. Then I realised there were female playwrights ... Carol Churchill, Bryony Lavery, Patricia Cornelius. It’s a pity Sarah Kane died so young. Right now I’m reading a lot of Dorothy Hewett. She’s still fresh and so theatrical. Her writing can really astonish, appall, delight and confront. There’s a passage in Man from Mukinupin where Zeek talks about water. It absolutely floored me. I read it over and over. I love that she writes about water in Australia as this precious, miraculous and also destructive thing. I’ve never seen a production of Mukinupin. It will be a real treat when I do.

The best line that never made it into one of my plays is... ‘We were going to go to church on Sunday but dad got drunk and took off in the car so we didn’t end up doing anything.’ I don’t know if that’s a best line but it’s what one of my students said when I asked her what she did on the weekend. I like to think I’m developing my ear to know a good line when I hear one and that, to me, sounded like a good line. It might pop up later.

My best or worst moment working in the theatre was... oh, so many good. I forget the worst except when they teach me something. One of my favourite moments happened toward the end of rehearsal of Prayer to an Iron God in 2003. A psychologist, one of our script consultants, lovely man, came to speak to the actors. He spoke very gently about how important the work was they were doing, how deep the emotions were they were exploring and of the need to look after themselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Then he presented them all with a gift. There was such a feeling of reverence in the room for this humble man, for the work, for theatre, for all the living affected by the suicide of a loved one. I knew I was witnessing something holy. Theatre as church, quite an extraordinary moment.

Heroes or villains - whose side are you on… I loved the villains up until I was about 38. Now the heroes have become more interesting. For their hidden villainy. Umm, I think we’re beyond good and evil though, aren’t we?

My last big laugh was about… farts.

My last big whinge was about… NAPLAN testing. MySchool website. Don’t get me started.

The role of theatre in 21st century Australia is… I’m sure there are playwrights who write about this. There must be playwrights who write about this. I’m not one of them.

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