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Zoë Tuffin – Wax Lyrical Theatre Company

Currently rehearsing for the premiere of ‘Bloke, A Man’s Twenty-First Century Guide to Emotional Fulfilment (or not… Maybe it’s just about sex)’, Zoë Tuffin sat down to tell us about Wax Lyrical Theatre Company, being a director and taking that first step towards following your passions.

What are you currently working on project-wise?

Wax Lyrical Theatre Company is rehearsing our premier production, Bloke, which we are staging at the Anywhere Theatre Festival. I am the director and Shane Pike, wrote the play and is acting in it. We are passionate about collaborating with other emerging artists and are working with a musician, Silvan Rus, and assistant director, Natalie Lazaroo.

Bloke, A Man’s Twenty-First Century Guide to Emotional Fulfilment (or not… Maybe it’s just about sex) tells the story of George and his three mates. Every year they meet on the same day at the same bar, but this year it’s different. Their dark and troubled past is now threatening their future.

The play is about young men in Australia and some of the issues they face on that difficult journey to “becoming a man”. When you look at the incidence of violence among men and the recent ABS statistic that shows suicide as the leading cause of death in men aged 15-44, it is clear that things are not alright for our Aussie blokes. In this production we attempt to unearth whether power leads to manhood.

Interested in seeing Bloke? Follow the link for performance dates, times and details.

What would you say led you to where you are today? What led you to be working on Bloke?

My partnership with Shane Pike led me here today. Shane is passionate about bringing awareness to issues surrounding young Aussie men. He encouraged me to look at the bigger picture, to not just focus on young men and alcohol, or speeding, or suicide, or violence, but to actually ask the question of why? Why are young men behaving like this? Why are our Aussie blokes suffering?

Asking these questions was a turning point for me. I was raised by a feminist. My mother was part of the second wave of feminism in South Australia. Mum and her friends were responsible for setting up the first women’s outreach centres in SA, ensuring that when women left abusive relationships they had somewhere safe to go. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by strong female leaders. They are my role models, which has been crucial for me when now entering the male dominated industry of directing. None of this is to say that I am a man hater! Not at all and neither are the women I was raised by. I simply mean that until Shane came into my life, the issues surrounding Australian masculinity simply were not on my radar.

I hope that staging this show at Anywhere Theatre Festival is just the first step. Wax Lyrical would really love to re-mount it, hopefully somewhere like the Powerhouse or Judith Wright Centre. From there we’d like to tour it to some of the fringe festivals interstate. It is our dream to reach as many Australians as we can, to get them asking questions about Australian masculinity and what it means to “become a man”. We’ve all experienced men in our lives behaving destructively, whether it’s our fathers, uncles, friends, brothers, or lovers but how many of us have looked at the bigger picture and asked, why?

What do you do, why did you choose to go down that path, and what do you love about it?

I’m a director. I currently work at Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre. Directing is both one of the most challenging and enjoyable things I’ve ever done. I directed my first show seven years ago and can remember a moment during the first rehearsal when this intense wave of emotion came over me and I just knew I was in the right place doing exactly what I was meant to do.

I love working with people. I love that theatre is a collaborative art form: people join together and share their hearts with one another. It takes so much bravery and trust to create theatre. Directing allows me to connect with people and bring people together, not just in terms of artists but the audience as well. More than anything though, I love story telling. I love sweeping people away through their imaginations, taking them outside of themselves and back again.

How did you hear about Visible Ink and get involved in using our space?

I first found out about Visible Ink through Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre when I assistant directed for Medea: The River Runs Backwards. We used Vis Ink for our creative development. I was really impressed with the facilities and I was amazed when I found out it was for free. I couldn’t believe it!

When my new company, Wax Lyrical Theatre Company, were accepted into Anywhere Theatre Festival I was worried about finding rehearsal spaces. As a new independent company, we are funding this project entirely out of our own pockets so we couldn’t afford to pay for rehearsal spaces. My close friend and colleague, Merlynn Tong, suggested I get in contact with Visible Ink. She had a fantastic experience during her rehearsals for Ma Ma Ma Mad. Merlynn raved about the staff’s generosity, supporting her with marketing and donating lighting and cushions – how could I resist?! When you are working from your own resources, having that level of kindness and assistance is so beneficial and something I really needed.

Is there any advice you would give young people wanting to get started in this field? Or any advice you wish you’d been given beforehand?

Learning to live with fear is part of being a director. You will always be scared of failing. In fact, the more terrified you are, the better, because it shows how important the project is to you and how much of a risk you are taking – you are putting your heart on the line. Even the truly great director’s struggle with fear but the trick is to not let it stop you.

How would you suggest young people get involved in theatre and directing in Brisbane?

The best thing you can do to begin, is assistant direct (AD). Find a director whose work you admire and ask to AD for them. Then get some people together and have a go yourself. You will never feel “ready” to direct and there is never a “right time”. You just have to get started.

Brisbane is a remarkable city in that it offers so many opportunities to get your work out there. 2high Festival and Anywhere Theatre Festival provide a supportive place to show your work. They are the perfect launch pads for emerging directors to begin showing their work.

As someone recently arrived in Brisbane, I would have to say that the Brisbane theatre scene is one of the most open, generous and accommodating places I have ever had the pleasure of working. Here, more than any of the other four cities I have worked in, my advice would be to emerging artists – if you want help or guidance, then just ask for it. Established artists know how difficult the journey is and more often than not they are willing to help out where they can.

Bloke will be showing as a part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival from Friday 9th May, at Blackwall Arts Space, West End. Check the Visible Ink event listings or the Anywhere Theatre Festival website for details.