Scott McArdle Introduces Us to 'Laika: A Staged Radio Play'
Of all the intriguing shows The Blue Room Theatre are putting on this year, Second Chance Theatre's Laika: A Staged Radio Play is certainly one of the most interesting. It's "a new staged radio play based on historical events that dares you to dream. Live foley transforms the theatre into launch pads, snow-covered Siberia, and even the depths of space." We were privileged enough to talk to the show's writer, director and lighting designer Scott McArdle to get a better grasp on this fascinating project.
For those of us who haven't experienced your work before, what can a Perth audience expect from Laika?
If I had to pick a word it’d be ‘immersion’. I love creating real worlds and real characters on stage that feel as tangible as your pre-show beer. Previously, these have been fictional worlds that I’ve made from scratch but with Laika, our team have been working to re-create a moment in history. I’m an avid amateur historian so Laika is me mixing two parts of me: theatre maker and huge nerd.
The play is set in Soviet Russia, a setting far removed from your own life, where did you seek inspiration for the play?
About three years ago, I read a Cracked article about Russian cosmonauts doctored out of official photographs – accompanied by a side-by-side of this. It chilled me to the bone. I kept going down the rabbit hole – chasing conspiracy theories and researching the U.S.S.R’s secretive Space program. I bought a half dozen books and found that I came out the other side doubting the history I knew. These guys made NASA look like chumps. It made me really reconsider how I saw Russia – this mysterious country on the far side of the world. I think a really beautiful part of theatre (and art) is that it can transport you through time and space – if I only wrote about where I’d been I’d just write about the same three coffee shops…
You're multitasking with this one, having both written and directed the play, would you say this has allowed you to have a more hands on approach in achieving your vision?
I started recently calling myself on my CV a writer-director – it seems to be my lot in life. I got asked recently if it was a trust issue, which it’s totally not!
When I write and direct, I do them for two different reasons. I write to bring to life stories, worlds, and characters that pop into my head – it’s as natural as eating and breathing for me. I direct because I love the thrill of bringing stories to life with teams of diverse people who do things that I can’t.
I do feel that none of my scripts are finished until they’re up in front of an audience – so seeing it through start-to-finish definitely means there’s a consistency and a through-line of vision.
What exactly is that vision, would you say?
I’ve been a bit bold this time around and we’re staging this script as staged radio play. We jump through 10 years and from rocket launches to Siberia to control rooms. Having worked on a few radio plays – it made total sense to me to set a play set in the 1950s in a genre so intrinsic to the time period.
I’ve always loved working with all elements on stage – detailed lighting, music, projection – so the challenge to pull off a play primarily using sound (and live sound at that!) absolutely thrilled me. We could never show you a rocket taking off on stage, oh but we’ll make it sound like you’re right on the launch pad! Our foley artist, Andrew David, does such an incredible job doing this too (we worked on a few radio plays together over the years).
In directing, have you been influenced by anyone in particular?
I was a self-taught director (Katie Mitchell’s The Director’s Craft is and always will be totally baller!) so a lot of my directors in my Bachelor’s Degree had big influences on me: Tim Brain, John King, and the cohort teaching out at Murdoch. I’m pretty inspired by some really hot AF Perth writer-directors, particularly Will O’Mahony and Joe Lui.
Specifically with theatre set in Russia though, Rachel Chavkin weaved wonders on Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway.
And will we get to see that influence manifest in Laika?
Totally! Both Tim and John have directed productions of War of the Worlds before and I based a lot of my staging rules off their work. I also try to be as brutal and raw and cruel as Will is – his mastery of emotion and writing is the best in Perth (don’t tell him I said that).
Now, you've done a fair few shows at the Blue Room, what keeps you coming back?
Do we have another 4 hours to talk about this?
(Full disclosure: I also work bar and box at The Blue Room.)
It’s a pretty special place – artists and audiences will tell you that.
As an artist, the support they give is a godsend – they’re there to help you be the best you can be. Also I love the intimacy of their two spaces and the joy of having a 15 show run!
On a final note, the Perth stage is overflowing with talent at the moment, who would you say we should keep our eye on?
Two young artists who I think are kicking ass are Georgina Cramond and Izzy McDonald. Both are performers and writers, and both are bloody great at it! I’ve worked with both and are dying to do so again.
Thanks Isolated Nation – you guys are great!