A Single Act by Jane Bodie
Tom Healey on the latest release from Red Door
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Jane Bodie’s A Single Act came out of “Blueprints”- a brave and wonderful development initiative from the Sydney Theatre Company. Headed up by former AD of Griffin and the current director of the Australian office of the British Council, Nick Marchand, it was a laboratory that operated within the STC, specifically dedicated to the generation of new texts for performance. it nurtured many writers (including Bodie, Ben Ellis and Brendan Cowell amongst many others), through in-house development and public productions. it is an initiative that is sorely missed in the current development landscape.
A Single Act is a finely wrought quartet for two couples in their late twenties to middle thirties. It has an intricate time structure (spread over a year) in which one couple travels forward in time and the other backward. They are linked narratively, but it is Bodie’s delicate thematic construction that creates the dense, enigmatic and powerful conversation between the two narratives.
Bodie’s theme is violence, manifested in one couple physically (although only the devastation of its impact, rather than the act itself, is shown) and in the other psychologically as they struggle to process the fall-out of an unnamed bombing they have both independently witnessed (again, not shown within the action). By leaving these key physical events offstage, Bodie focuses our attention away from the gruesome and on to the human cost of such events; to the frailty that they engender within all of us, and the effort of will that it requires for us to keep love – and trust – alive in the wake of such violence.
it was written in the early 2000’s in the wake of 9/11 and, while the action and theme of the play is certainly (and consciously) connected to that event, it does not specifically refer to it. There is a deliberate mystery, or perhaps openness, in the plotting that allows us to connect it to a larger sense of the world, to the terrible rupture that 9/11 awoke in so many of us; to the feeling that none of us are immune, none of us are safe and that, in some deep and subtle way, layers beneath its obvious and terrible consequences, the world is utterly changed by having lived through it.
Jane has a tremendous touch as a playwright for conjuring the frailty of humanity. Her plays are often hilarious, always deeply sensual and feature strong and affecting atmospherics. I have always loved the quality her writing possesses of being utterly connected to its time, and this (in my view) is an inevitable consequence of the brutal honesty with which she writes. At the centre of all of her plays are people who are fighting hard – for sex, for love, for redemption, for dignity – and this quality, this overwhelming humanity rushes up from the bottom of every one of her plays and it spills over, like hastily poured champagne. This is what makes her characters so vibrant, so present and so absolutely – even if sometimes painfully – alive.
in a strange accident of history, A Single Act received its world premiere in the UK (at the Hampstead Theatre in London). The Melbourne Theatre Company produced its Australian premiere in 2006 (directed by the redoubtable Julian Meyrick). It is an eloquent, powerful and deeply affecting work and I am thrilled not only to have acquired it for our collection, but also to feature it as the first of our 2014 Red Door imprint.
Tom Healey, February 2014
Australian Script Centre Literary Manager and curator of its Red Door imprint
|Tom Healey in conversation with Jane Bodie|