Brown’s Mart stalwart Kyle Walmsley took a moment during rehearsals for Highway of Lost Hearts to chat to director Ciella Williams and star of the show, Bryn Wackett about the joys and challenges of creating their own unique iteration of Mary Anne Butler’s iconic work…
Ciella: Structurally the play is unconventional in that it’s very episodic. It’s not a conventional story structure with traditional moments of clear cause and effect, and tension rising to a climax. Instead, it is very poetic and meandering, with the permission of the magic realism to very much find pieces of [Mot’s] heart scattered across the country.
Bryn: The original production was a retelling or one person in ‘storytelling mode’, but our version if different from this. Instead, the character of Mot is a dreamer and goes off into imaginary worlds and as he does she becomes each of these characters. It’s not for anyone else, telling anyone else; the way that we’re playing it, she’s not storytelling, she’s inhabiting it through the telling.
Ciella: Which I think is exciting because it has a bit more immediacy for an audience and a performer. Otherwise looking back in time creates a kind of safety and distance from the action. We’re trying to create a story that stays in the moment so that it feels present and it feels potentially dangerous because you’re only seeing her in the now, not in the future telling us about the now.
Bryn: As a performer, you are placing yourself inside the action and really letting things unfold so that as Mot, you don’t know what’s about to happen. There are over 15 characters to play in the story, and each of them has to genuinely react and be surprised and shocked and moved by one another. It’s a big task.
Ciella: My feeling watching Bryn work as the sole actor playing all characters and not having an ensemble cast as back-up, is that it allows the character of Mot to have more empathy for the other characters, rather than parodying them because you have to be in them.
In its previous form, there are notes in the play about its metaphorical function – for a country that has lost its heart, and while the character Mott is finding her heart again too in our version, she is also learning to be a better person, an empathetic person. She starts the play recoiling from someone’s hand and ends the play holding someone else’s. Perhaps getting to embody the characters, speaks to that journey of empathy.
The dog, also for Mot is a really significant anchor. We found that Mot kind of embodies the dog the more the play goes on, so much that the line between her and the dog gets a little blurry. As her empathy and humanity expands, as she becomes rawer, more primal, we see her physicality intertwining with the dog. And you couldn’t do that if you had other people playing those roles.
Highway of Lost Hearts is showing at Brown’s Mart Theatre until March 27, tickets are available online.