Night Writes sits down with co-writers and producers Natasha Cheng and Roelene Coleman to discuss the debut production We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV from Well, Actually Productions.
Tell us about Well, Actually Productions.
Well, Actually Productions was born in the midst of a global pandemic, in the living rooms of our producers. Stuck in a country-wide lockdown in 2020, Roelene and Natasha decided to create their own opportunities by finding stories to tell which are relevant and powerful. Initially as actors in the industry, Roelene and Natasha were tired of telling stories that were not inspiring or diverse, and waiting around for the opportunities of exciting narratives to find them. As a result, this production and writing company is dedicated to telling the untold stories of our time and bringing light to current societal issues in new and exciting ways. They hope to inspire their audiences to challenge their current perspectives and open their minds to new ways of looking at the world.
How has the crisis influenced your creative process?
For us, the pandemic and lockdowns, along with all the social issues which took the world by storm prior (such as the Black Lives Matter movement), pushed us to reflect on the state of society. It seems that our communities are at a turning point and it could go either way. But the conversations around very pertinent issues are not constructive or empathetic. It seems that with people only connecting with the world and each other through the internet, we have lost the ability to communicate effectively. It’s all about instant messaging and instant gratification. Everyone wants to win the conversation, instead of trying to learn something about other perspectives, or from someone else’s experience. We are more motivated by the prospect of telling someone different that they’re wrong, than trying to understand where they are coming from. We were inspired not only to write something that would bring people back to the arts, but also something that would bring the conversation back into the room, face to face. We particularly wanted to spark curiosity around a topic everyone has directly been affected by, and hopefully help people to actually listen to each other. We thought it very important to help people connect again, especially after a time where the world seemed very bleak and disconnected.
What sparked your interest in this project?
Natasha and Roelene were invited into a women’s writing group in the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. After many weeks of discussions, research, and brain storming, the group decided on the topic of gender and sexuality. This was something we had all been affected by and were passionate to have progress in society. We didn’t just want to write something about the nuances of discrimination against women in modern first world society, but also men, and all other genders and sexualities. We are all, in one way or another, disadvantaged by the very stereotypes we have created. Yes, one group may be effected more than the other, but we decided that wasn’t the point we wanted to make. We wanted to involve everyone in the conversation, because we believe that is the only way we can truly evolve and move towards being equal.
What were the most challenging and enjoyable aspects of putting We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV together?
The most challenging part was, and still is, deciding on our ending. For this play, the ending is everything. It will either mean the audience completely gets the message or not at all.
We’re All Terrible is about contemporary gender politics. How does the show explore this theme?
We have set our show at a Sketch TV Network office environment, which forces our diverse group of employees to work together and deal with each others’ differences, or not. Every character represents a different type of person in society, a person we know in real life. They are from all different walks of life with their own rock-solid beliefs when it comes to gender and sexuality. In between the office drama, we also use our sketch shows to demonstrate the very extreme and satirical versions of what’s happening in the office, all based around the specific gender themes of the show. We want the audience to question whether they see a bit of themselves in the conflict, in the sketches. The chances are, they will.
How has this production confirmed or challenged your notions of gender and identity politics?
Our show reflects upon the audience the very judgements we make in real life, based on how a person appears on the surface. “He doesn’t get laid every weekend, he must be gay”, “He’s not a feminist, he must be a misogynist”, “She wear a lot of makeup and tight clothes, she probably has nothing going on upstairs”, “She isn’t laughing at my joke, she must be on her period”. Not only do we face the audience with their very own possible realities, but our show confirms the broken way we are communicating, and the results of such a malfunctioning system in the long term. Without proper conversations and empathy around each others’ differences, we will always be stuck in our stereotypes, and never be seen for the individuals we are outside of how we identify and who we love. Of course, there are stereotypes that happen outside of gender and sexuality, but that would make for a much longer show!
Why is it important to tell this story now and in Australia?
Our communities in Australia are going through a lot of change. There is a lot more information out there now around gender and identity. Naturally, there is a lot of resistance because it is uncomfortable for a lot of people. Our play is confronting people with that discomfort and making them sit in and learn to be ok, because the alternative is a broken society.
How does We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV fit into the wider Australian theatre scene?
Our play is quite new for Australian theatre. This type of Australian comedy is not anything like the comedies we are used to. With our fast-paced, satirical meta-comedy, we hope to create a new category for Australian theatre. And who knows, maybe we’ll even see this type of comedy grow out of the indie scene and right into our largest venues!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this production?
We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV is addressing a very current issue, not just in our community, but across the whole world. There are so many new things coming to light around gender and identity, that we think it’s important to remind people to stop and listen, instead of judge and argue. We must let down our barriers and be prepared to be vulnerable, because that is how we will truly connect with each other. We need to stop pointing fingers, deflecting blame, and take ownership over our disconnectedness. In a time where we don’t know how to connect anymore, we hope our play will remind people how.
NOTE: Responses have been edited for clarity.
We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV is running at Tom Mann Theatre from January 20th – February 6th.
Well, Actually Productions are currently fundraising to cover production costs. For more information and to donate, visit here.
TICKET GIVEAWAY: Well, Actually Productions have generously provided two tickets for a Night Writes reader to attend We’re All Terrible, Let’s Watch TV on the opening weekend January 20th – 23rd. To enter the giveaway, follow Well, Actually Productions on Instagram and Facebook and send them a message with “Night Writes Giveaway” for your chance to win.
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