Kate Mulvany

As an actor, Kate has performed for Company B Belvoir, B Sharp, Pork Chop, Griffin, Sydney Theatre Company, Ensemble, Deckchair Theatre, Perth Theatre Company , ThinIce and Black Swan Theatre Company.  She has been nominated for Best Actress awards for both the Sydney Theatre Critics Awards and the Green Room Awards.  She has appeared on television in ‘All Saints’, ‘Blue Heelers’, ‘The Chaser’s War on Everything’ and ‘Chandon Pictures’, the feature film ‘The Final Winter’, and in the upcoming features ‘Griff the Invisible’ and ‘Eating Friends’.

As a writer, Kate’s plays include ‘Blood & Bone’ (winner of Naked Theatre Company’s ‘Write Now’ competition), ‘Story Time’, ‘Derek Drives a Datsun’ ‘Vaseline Lollies’, ‘Embalmer!’ and ‘Somewhere’, which was co-written with Tim Minchin and opened the new Q Theatre/ Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Complex at Penrith in 2005. Her play ‘The Danger Age’ was shortlisted for the 2004 Patrick White Playwright’s Award and opened the 2008 La Boite Season. Kate was also the winner of the 2004 Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award, from which she wrote ‘The Seed’, which won the Sydney Critics ‘Best Independent Show’ award and recently completed a national tour of Australia.  Her play ‘The Web’ for Hothouse and Black Swan has also just completed a tour of the east and west.   She is currently developing ‘Masquerade’ for STC and has just completed ‘The Wreath’ for Bell Shakespeare’s Mind’s Eye initiative.

What excites you/terrifies you most about writing for the stage?

What excites me most is creating my own world. Although I’m not in any way a computer game follower, I guess it’s akin to creating an avatar for yourself.  The infinite possibilities for characters, worlds and stories are tantalising.  Added to this is the invigorating exploration of genuine social issues – things that make me angry or happy or frustrated or confused  – that I get to speak out about and question.  As an every-day citizen I’ve sent many letters off to politicians, government agencies, etc and nine times out of ten receive no reply.  As a playwright, I can ask these same questions of my characters and start a genuine conversation onstage and off. It never ceases to amaze me that I seem to get more answers from imaginary characters than from real ones!

Tell us about one of your earliest writing attempts.

When I was 11 I attempted to write ‘Gone With the Wind 2’.  It started off right where the film ended and went something like…”Scarlett rose from the stairs and watched Rhett walk into the mist.  She poured herself a whiskey.  She wanted to get drunk. Really drunk.”

I wrote one page and then Mum’s typewriter ran out of ink, but to this day I still have that page stuck to my fridge.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a playwright?

My other job. Acting.

What work are you most proud of?

As a writer, I’m most proud of my play ‘The Seed’, but the pride is more for my family who were its subject matter than the work itself.  I’m proud of them for trusting me to tell their very intimate and painful truths when they had been told for so many years that their story wasn’t worth telling. The response to the play has been overwhelming, and it all started with their bravery.

As an actor, Antigone in last year’s Perth International Arts Festival.  I can’t really say why, exactly – it’s just a work I’m very proud of and feel so lucky I got the opportunity to inhabit.

What is a dream project of yours? (You can be mysterious!)

One I’m working on right now.  It’s an adaptation of my favourite children’s book ‘Masquerade’ and it’s already proving as magical and joyful as the first moment I picked up the book at the age of eight.

Do you have any weird writing rituals?

Not really.  I can’t write at a desk.  I even went out and bought myself a ridiculously ornate antique oak roll-top only to find that I just can’t use it.  Now it houses random cords and old Sunday newspapers.  The only other quirk is that I can’t write in a messy room. Everything has to be in order before I sit down at my laptop, but that could be more of a procrastination thing than a ritual thing…

What do you do to get out of your ‘writing head’ when you need to?

Pilates.  Cooking.  A glass of red.  A computerless holiday.

Where do you look to find the most inspiration for your work?

My family.  My childhood memories.  And sometimes the tiny little articles that are squished into a side column near the back of a newspaper.  They always explode my imagination.

Name the play/character/line you wish you’d written.

“Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang… I have given you my soul; leave me my name…”

John Proctor. The Crucible. Arthur Miller. “

My first job in Sydney was performing at the STC in a production of ‘The Crucible’.  To this day, it’s still my favourite play – how one little girl’s lie results in a man giving up his very soul.   I used to stand in the wings and wait for Scott Johnston (as Proctor) to scream it every show and every time it gave me chills. Love it, love it, love it.

What are your views on the current climate of Australian playwriting?

Invigorating, unique, energised, angry and inspired.  I feel there’s a wave of young Australian playwrights coming though with real fires in their bellies who are showing companies and audiences that they are worth taking pride in and risks upon.  And not a moment too soon.

What is your best advice for emerging playwrights?

Trust your gut.

Got any shameless plugs? What are you looking forward to seeing in theatres?

My personal ‘baby’ – a play called ‘The Danger Age’ that I wrote a few years back is on in Perth for Deckchair Theatre in May.   It’s fun.  Have a look if you’re over that way.

I’m looking forward to seeing Tommy Murphy’s latest ‘Gwen in Purgatory’ at Belvoir later this year, as well as ‘The Trial’ for STC and ThinIce under Matt Lutton’s direction.

What is the one play you think every playwright should read/see? (Will accept a short list if impossible!)

Predictably…‘The Crucible’.   For the muscularity of the text, the heartbreaking twists and turns of the plot, the complexity of the characters, and the use of dark and bitter humour to pack a full punch.