In a cluttered Fitzroy warehouse five people are rehearsing a new play. Three weeks in, and with 10 days to go, the cast of four and their director already speak the secret language of the tightly knit, laughing and teasing as they work through the script together.
On this chilly Melbourne night it is exactly how you imagine independent theatre to be: A rehearsal space of milk crates, exposed wires, and intermittent lighting. Lines run against the soundtrack of a cranky generator and an indie guitar serenading from the bar next door. Blankets required for the audience of one, and the slight delirium of putting flesh to the bones of new characters … if the cast could just remember their lines!
Last week the crew had the luxury of rehearsing in a well-lit dance studio, where blankets were not required. But rehearsal space is hard to find at short notice, and they were lucky to find this warehouse on Creative Spaces, the website that makes room at the inn for new and independent art works in Melbourne. From here they will take “Surfacing” to a Brunswick stage.
“Surfacing” is written by actress Tracey Mathers. This is her first try at the actor’s triple crown – writing, producing, and starring in your own show. She has chosen a topic both personal and universal – the experiences and effects of depression on a group of friends. With scenes both sweetly comic and quietly tragic, “Surfacing” exposes the indiscriminate reach of the disease – on sports stars, on a new mother, and on an actress still hoping for her first break.
There are elements of autobiography – Mathers speaks openly about her own experience with what she calls her “front row view” of depression. Writing the play took 3 years to complete, some elements harder to get down than others. Mathers admits that getting her head around the male perspective and language, especially that of a professional athlete took time. “I can write from truth,” she says, “fiction is harder. A lot of footy-star autobiographies were read in the process.”
With the script completed, Mathers knew she wanted to perform it. Prepared to spend her savings on the endeavour, success with the crowd-funding site Pozible made this only half-necessary, and “Surfacing” became a reality. Cast member Jon Richards was the last to come on board, joining local performers Sarah Hamilton, Kane Felsinger, and Mathers as four friends dealing with how deeply issues of mental health can impact themselves and each other.
As they complete a full run-through tonight, Director Nathan Gilkes keeps the small cast focused, working through transitions, and tightening scenes. By the end of the night it is clear there is something special going on here. As each character reveals the truth of their situation this home-grown piece of theatre takes shape in both funny and poignant ways.
Challenging thoughts about mental health and highlighting the stories of the myriad people who suffer from depression is a primary aim of the play for Mathers, as “Surfacing” gets closer to opening night.
“Knowledge leads to understanding. And through live theatre we can educate in a tangible and visceral way.”
SURFACING - Presented by The Alias Project OPENING Wednesday 30th May, in Brunswick Melbourne Tickets can be purchased here: trybooking.com