Interview: Emerging playwright Ang Collins shares her inspiration behind Blueberry Play
Shortlisted for the 2017 Griffin Award, Ang Collins’ Blueberry Play presents a storyline that includes themes of family life, adolescence, and mental and physical illness. We were lucky enough to chat to the emerging playwright and discover what inspired her to create this intimate story, as well as what’s in store for the future.
IN: Describe Blueberry Play in 5 words.
Ang: Tender. Funny. Small town. Nostalgia.
IN: What inspired you to write Blueberry Play?
Ang: Blueberry Play is inspired by my own awkward teenage years growing up in Newcastle, NSW. From chugging awful vodka-chocolate milk combinations called "Mudslides" at various 18th birthday parties, to having a pash with too much tongue on someone's front lawn, the play recounts a lot of very specific, nostalgic experiences for me as a seventeen year old. It's also inspired by my partner's teenage experiences having a parent who lived with both mental and physical illness. The play is really my ode to that time in both our lives - it emerged very organically and was super cathartic to write.
IN: What are you hoping people will take away from your show?
Ang: I hope people leave the show with a sense of nostalgia for their teenage years, and maybe with an appreciation for the realistic way I've tried to write about mental illness. I think often, mental illness is sensationalised for the sake of drama and shock in the theatre, and I've absolutely tried to explore the issue in the opposite way, in a way that is personal to me, and that is infused in the everyday rather than as an over the top trope.
In previous runs of the show, I've had people come up to me after and tell me all about their own teenage experiences - from hanging around at the local public pool or shopping centre, to deeper stories of living with a parent with mental or physical illnesses. That's the most special thing about bringing this show back - seeing how it resonates with other young people and listening to all the stories that emerge in response to the play. I love it!
IN: What do you love most about theatre?
Ang: It's cliché, but there's this unique magic of bringing a show from a bunch of random elements into this living, breathing thing that rears its head night after night. When you're in the audience of a good show, sometimes you'll get this amazing heart swell. It's this exhilarating feeling that doesn't hit me through any other medium, for me. That's what I'm chasing every time I make or see a show. Good fringe shows give me this feeling a lot, because all the bells and whistles are pulled away and you're just there to connect with the story being told.
I also just fucking love the people. Collaborating and being on the same wave length as the people you're working with, in any capacity, feels amazing.
IN: Are you working on any other projects?
Ang: I'm working on a few projects! I'm currently writing a companion piece to Blueberry Play in partnership with Australian Theatre for Young People, I'm writing a short play that will feature as one of three at Meat Market's Stables in Melbourne with Periscope Productions in May, and I'm part of a couple of fun projects that will be staged in Sydney from late February onwards. Busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.