FEATURE | The Age, Triangle

Playwright bites into dark suburban forces

Vampires take on North Fitzroy in a new play.

NORTH Fitzroy has been used as a literary setting by such authors as Helen Garner and Christos Tsiolkas but the new play Triangle is likely to be the first to introduce vampires into the suburb.

”It is set in the psycho-geography of inner Melbourne, with vampires representing the Zeitgeist of our times,” says the author, Glyn Roberts, who is part of the duo behind one of Melbourne’s most dynamic new theatre companies, MKA.

He is no fan of the supernatural beasts, but he says there is no disputing their popular appeal. ”They are to this era what Superman was in the ’60s and werewolves were in the ’80s.”

He puts their popularity down to the need for an escapist fantasy from the uncertain economic times. ”They are a nihilist expression because vampires don’t need anything at all, except a supply of humans. They are impervious to attack and are always beautiful.”

Triangle was short-listed for the Patrick White award earlier this year, administered by the Sydney Theatre Company, evidence the play is very different from the Twilight romantic fantasies.

”It is a mix of human drama and deconstructed horror,” Roberts says, before quipping that it is a cross between Twin Peaks and Monkey Grip.

His vampire is a Melbourne University student (played by Elizabeth Nabben) who has deferred her studies and lives in a tree in Edinburgh Gardens. She befriends a new mother (Janine Watson), who is lonely with her baby and spends her time in organic cafes. Both are inner-city stereotypes.

”They meet but fail to connect, so the play explores the projection of a supernatural being who takes control of people’s lives,” he says.

The play contrasts the vampire fantasy with reality, until the climax in a North Fitzroy institution, Piedemonte’s supermarket.

Roberts did not intend to write about two women – a daunting challenge for a 29-year-old male. ”The characters just started talking to me in my head,” he says. ”They were concerned that Piedemonte’s had run out of couscous, which is obviously a terrible state of affairs.”

He says the play’s achievement in making the Patrick White award short list is another step in the MKA’s growing credibility. Triangle is his seventh play to be produced, although he lost interest in theatre when he was in Europe for four years before returning to complete a political science degree at Monash University.

He began the company two years ago with fellow playwright Tobias Manderson-Galvin and it has already earned a national reputation.

The recent season of sex.violence.blood.gore by Singaporean writer Alfian bin Sa’at was highly praised and revealed similarities between Australian and south-east Asian writers. Roberts hopes to work with another Singapore writer, Huzir Sulaiman, who attended PlayWriting Australia’s national festival in Melbourne last February after his play, Cogito, was produced at La Mama.

”Something about the writing from the region resonates with me much more than something like a Broadway hit,” he says.

MKA’s aim is to present the work of contemporary writers who otherwise would have nowhere else to stage their work. He and Manderson-Galvin established it after attending the World Interplay international conference for playwrights under 26 in Cairns in 2006.

”The aim is to help writers of my generation get their works produced,” he says. ”There are theatres for new writing all around the world, although the nearest one to Australia is in Kuala Lumpur.”

Manderson-Galvin’s The Economist about the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik is going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and Brisbane’s World Theatre Festival next February. Two shows will be presented at the company’s temporary theatre at 64 Sutton Street, North Melbourne, on July 20 and 21.

He describes the location as a ”down-at-heels part of town” and would like to turn other parts of the old warehouse into theatres.

”All our plays are self-funded,” Roberts says. ”We don’t make much money but we are not in debt.”

They seek out investors among ”young professionals interested in the arts” who are asked to fund individual shows.

”MKA is the step writers can take after somewhere like La Mama puts on their early work,” he says, which is what happened with his first plays.

Triangle is at MKA North Melbourne, 64 Sutton Street, from July 23-August 4.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/stage/playwright-bites-into-dark-suburban-forces-20120715-2241k.html#ixzz44NkR2ITa