Alex Malone: Threnody is mostly written in verse. Why do you think Michael has written it like this?
Zoe Jensen: I can’t speak for Michael, but my thoughts on this are that it is primarily a story-telling device and one that he has always been particularly interested in. Verse mythologises the mundane by tricking the ear into false expectation, once you establish that push and pull of the play’s rhythm you can disrupt that effectively. It also speaks to an inherent pattern in our bodies, one that some of us suspect echoes in the universe. That’s what the play’s about anyway, a shared song through all people.
We all play different characters in the play. Who’s your favourite character to take on?
I love playing Robert Mason – a navy man out celebrating his daughters 13th birthday at a strip club – because I finally get to showcase my excellent ‘man voice’. Though I’ve harassed my dad, brothers, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, male friends, male teachers etc over the years with this ‘man voice’, I have never been given the opportunity to do it on stage and I am absolutely thrilled.
If you could meet any woman dead or alive who would it be?
Awesome question! I’m going to answer both of these because it’s so good.
Dead: I would love to have a cup of tea with Ruth Park in her Norfolk Island home. Her novels were my saviour growing up, and they still are today. I would love to collaborate with her on turning her magical stories into films.
Alive: I would also love to PART-AY hard with Madonna! She is such an absolute Ledge, and the Queen (sorry Beyonce) and I adore every album she has ever released. We would be best friends and there would be so much champagne.
In the play, Virginia has her first drink. What was the first drink of alcohol you ever had?
Apart from the little sips of Drambuie my Mum forced on us at Xmas dinners, my first proper drink was some old red goon. I was fourteen and staying at a friends house and her parents went out for dinner leaving us alone for a few hours. We decided to try some of their red goon, had two cups each, pretended we were drunk and then got bored and went to bed. In the morning we both also tried to outdo each other with our hangovers. Obviously fake as well. Ahh those were the days.
This is the second time you have worked with Michael this year. How do the two shows relate or differ?
Though the two shows are quite different in style/genre (Bright Those Claws was a quick-paced farcical comedy, Threnody is a poetic tragedy), I think they are quite similar in regards to theme. In fact these same themes come up very often in Michael’s work! Both plays deal with a kind of dark spirituality and both ask a lot of religious questions, primarily to do with the ambivalence of God. Both of the lead characters are tragic romantic figures whose descent we witness throughout the course of the show. This figure is surrounded by characters who seem to have a story-telling compulsion, which infects us as performers! We are so excited to tell this story!
Zoe Jensen: What do you think Sydney audiences will enjoy the most about Threnody?
I think audiences will really enjoy this play because its sexy, rude, funny and written in verse. It’s not often, or ever really, that you see plays written in verse that aren’t classics. The language is clever, poetic and performed by six really great actresses. What’s not to like?
Why do you think our director has cast all-women when there are both male and female roles available?
The thing that’s most prevalent in Threnody is the female chorus. Five girls tell the story of a young girl, Virginia, and narrate her encounters as she leaves her house for the first time. Even though all of us transform into other characters (male and female) and interact with Virginia, the chorus of women propel the story. This provides a female insight into how she feels and why she makes the decisions she does, and most importantly, how she perceives the other people she comes into contact with.
One of your characters in Threnody is an old grumpy male bus driver, how do you relate to him?
I don’t! I’m not old, male, and I’ve never driven a bus but if you see me before my morning coffee I am grumpy! I’m having a lot of fun playing someone so different to me. I think I want to get my bus license now though…
When was the first time you went to party and what was your experience of it?
I can’t remember exactly what or when my first party was but I remember a New Years Eve party near the end of High School. I think it was Toga themed and little Seventeen year old Alex drank way too much vodka. We’ve all been drunk in a toga at some point…
How do you relate to the strong ‘loss of innocence’ theme in Threnody?
I think young kids today, especially girls, find themselves constantly under social pressure to grow up faster than kids in past generations. I know I definitely felt pressure to look and act a certain way when I was going through school, and that was with technology that was nowhere near as advanced as it is now. I think this play really highlights the loss of innocence as we follow Virginia’s first encounter with a man and with society. Threnody also focuses on the contrary opinion of keeping kids too sheltered and what that might do to their development. Threnody is paired on the Old Fitz stage with Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, which is also about kids growing up fast. I think this is a really important subject to be discussing and seeing on our stages.
Zoe Jensen and Alex Malone are appearing in Threnody by Michael McStay.
Dates: 27 September – 8 October, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre