For a while now I’ve thought it was time to shake things up for Bitten By Productions. While we burst out of the gate with a very ambitious and expensive show in Below Babylon, since then the bulk of what we’ve done has been in the realm of one room, one scene dramas where a cast of between two and five drink, yell at each other and occasionally someone dies. And while this model has allowed for a few different genres and, in We Can Work It Out, probably my favourite of all the plays we’ve done, to me it was starting to feel a bit samey. And kind of easy.
Regression could have been very much in that same vein. On the page, it’s a low key dramedy with a cast of four. It has scene changes and takes place over several weeks, but it doesn’t cry out for an especially left-of-centre interpretation. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t need one.
Regression tells the story of a directionless failed actor named Will, who agrees to an experimental therapy that essentially puts him in a room with his fifteen-year-old self. Both Wills are in for very rude awakenings when they realise that their respective past and future don’t quite live up to what they’d imagined; the fiercely ambitious teenager learns that he never fulfils any of his dreams while the nostalgic adult has to deal with the realisation that his past is not quite how he remembers it. At its heart, it’s the story of a man coming to terms with himself.
When Joachim Matschoss, former head of theatre at Caulfield Grammar and an internationally renowned director, expressed an interest in directing Regression it seemed immediately like a great fit. Had I done it myself it would have been a very straightforward depiction of what was on the page, while Joachim is known for more bold, experimental theatre. And with a somewhat out-there premise, I felt that Regression would benefit from an out-there creative vision.
But shaking things up comes with challenges. In this case, lots of challenges. The venue we found, while very cool, is not a traditional theatre space and so we have more or less had to build a theatre, sourcing lights and chairs and all kinds of other bits and pieces to make it work. Plus various issues along the way have meant that some aspects of the production that had been planned for weren’t quite able to come to fruition. There’s been a lot of stress and more than a little worry surrounding this show.
But, today I saw the final tech rehearsal, and things are looking pretty good. It’s still very much my story, but enriched by Joachim’s unmistakable style and brought to life by a really talented cast. The venue is actually pretty much perfect and the aspects of the space that might have caused challenges are being used in really interesting and cool ways. In short, Regression will be nothing like any of my plays you’ve seen before.
I don’t know how people will respond to it. I find it hard to watch at times because of how very personal it is; there are moments where I wonder if I was too honest and if that will put people off. Or if it will make the play stronger. What I can say above all is that I have never written a play like this, I’ve never seen my work performed like this and the fact is, that’s pretty bloody thrilling. I said I wanted to shake things up and that has happened in a big way.
But hey, the reality is you never know until the audience sits down on opening night; until then it’s impossible to gauge whether anyone will get anything at all out of it. I’ve always been worried before every one of my shows, so I guess in that regard Regression is really no different to any other play. It’s scary to me because it’s a stark change of pace, but in a lot of ways that’s probably the best thing about it. Now it’s just a matter of whether the audience agrees.
For what’s it’s worth? I’m excited.
Just some thoughts.