Michelle Ny: How similar were you to your character when you were in high school?
Caitlin Burley: Fairly similar to be honest. High school is a wild ride, and I tried a few different hats, some closer to Steph than others. I definitely shared her optimism and her desire to believe that people, especially those in charge, are honest and concerned about everyone’s best interest. And I am aware of the disillusionment that this can bring.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did when you were a teenager?
I was pretty tame. Naughtiest thing I ever did in high school was probably just lying about going to the movies, and instead drinking in parks, ovals, backyards or on the streets. But
that phase was short lived, and never more than a few mouthfuls…
How would you cope with dealing with the blackouts in this world?
Well it would change our world drastically. It wouldn’t just be an ‘inconvenience’. Blackouts that plunge entire cities into darkness are catastrophic and do happen. There was a 25 hour blackout in New York in 1977 that resulted in a huge spike of crime and looting and more than 1000 intentional fires. Our world would be more dangerous. We would all be more vulnerable. I
would feel more powerless and night-time would be scarier. But I hope I would emerge with a survival plan, re-tweak my lifestyle and build a community so that we could survive off the grid
when needed, have an incredible emergency kit that I would never leave home without, torch, whistle, pepper spray, nuts and build a huge network of like-minded people with friends and family.
At night, I would always be ready to run, but to be honest, I seldom wear heels or tight skirts for that reason anyway.
How do think this play appeals to other young women?
It centres on two young women who take the narrative, that so often places women as victims, into their own hands and in the darkness imagine and negotiate a better future. It also breaks down heaps of stereotypes and divides that don’t serve us and that’s appealing. I think people will find it empowering and hopeful see it as a rallying call to stick together and rewrite the way forward. We will make mistakes, but we will get there together. I hope this play will play a small part getting us there.
Would you rather have an 8 hour blackout every week or a month long blackout every 12 months? And why.
Definitely an 8 hour blackout every week. Overall it’s much less time and I think that if our society were to face a month long blackout anarchy would break loose. We do have some back-ups in place; hospitals are supposed to have backup power for 96 hours, there is fuel in storage tanks, but a lot of these require electricity to access. If we all knew that come Sunday we would have 8 hours without electricity we could prepare ourselves, with resources and safety. It might actually force us all to slow down and interact with one another more. And surely it would mean being closer to hitting our carbon budgets. A month would be hard to recover from. Our society is dependent on electricity at every level, and unfortunately we are a selfish species. But I think conscience makes us kinder. Come see the show!
Caitlin Burley: In this play, you give a lot of (often unsolicited) free-advice. What is a piece of advice you would give to your 16 year old school girl self?
Michelle Ny: Hey 16 year old, Michelle. I’m sorry but there will be things in your life which are monumentally shit so I can’t say life will be better. BUT, you will grow up and be able to handle things with more emotional maturity and grow with each new obstacle that is thrown at you. So keep feeling things at 1000% (even if this is overwhelming) and keep being weird. x
Tell us about a real-life blackout you’ve experienced.
This isn’t an ~actual~ blackout but once when I was a kid, my parents left for a little while and my brother and I psyched ourselves into fear so we turned off all the lights and sat in
silence in chairs with our back towards the entrance of the room. Then when we heard people coming home we hid underneath the dining table but of course, it was just my family arriving!
What is one of your favourite moments in the play?
This is probably a favourite moment in rehearsals but, because the play has references to the UK, we had to change small references to become Australian, and we have gone through a big debate on what biscuit brand to use. Tim Tams, Tic Tocs, Honey Jumbles, Chit Chats, Coles brand chocolate chip cookies, Chocolate Thins, Gingernuts, Mint Slice, Digestives, Oreos etc… I like cookies.
This play deals with violence against women, is there anything in the play that you find empowering?
The women in this play are not victims and I think they are never portrayed as victims. A lot of awful things happen in their lives but both Bell and Steph take ownership of their issues and seek to find ways to tackle them. I think it’s interesting to see young women who are traditionally vulnerable act on their own means to break the trope of ‘damsel in distress.’
What were you like at school? Did you have a fake ID?
I was pretty high energy and annoying when I was at school but I was also kind of an ~”emo”~. A lot of walking around the corridors with extremely loud teen punk music blasting through my headphones. In my last year of high school we didn’t have to wear a uniform, so I exercised that privilege by skipping almost every chemistry class and lying somewhere on the waterfront. And I only borrowed my sisters ID once to get into a venue which was hosting our wrap party for a web series I was in. Other than that, I was pretty good and the first time I went clubbing was on my 18th birthday!
Caitlin Burley and Michelle Ny can be seen in A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar), by Lulu Raczka.
Dates: 20 Sep – 5 Oct, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre