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Interview with Joanna Murray Smith


My first theatre experience was…   A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent’s Park in London. We were living in London for a year and we lived opposite the Regent’s Park Zoo. I’m sure I didn’t understand the story, but I loved the fairies and the park at dusk and Bottom and the sensation that anything could happen.

If I was a character in a play I’d be… a Noël Coward character.
 
I hate theatre when… it’s polemical.
 
Playwrights who inspire me… Chekhov, Edward Albee, John Patrick Shanley, Joe Penhall... too many to name. I had a conversation with Edward Albee once at a party. I was in rehearsal with Honour on the West End and he said to me “Don’t ever forget you’re the most important person in the rehearsal room!” He was wrong, but it did shore up my confidence.

The best line that never made it into one of my plays is... I’m not sure about the best line. But the best title I never used was “The Measure of Distance”. It’s a phrase in a poem by Rilke. I wanted to call Rockabye that, but everybody hated it, quite accurately, because it doesn’t fit the play.
 
My best or worst moment working in the theatre was... probably watching Eileen Atkins in Honour at the National.
 
Heroes or villains - whose side are you on… the most beguiling characters are both at once.
 
My last big laugh was... when the entire company of my play Rockabye broke into a spontaneous version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during notes after the first preview. It was around 1 a.m. and rather a lot of wine had been consumed.
 
My last big whinge was about… friends booking tickets to the first preview. As everyone in theatre knows... real friends don’t go to previews.
 
The role of theatre in 21st century Australia is… what it’s always been... to fill a dark space with the power of the human imagination.


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