Putting the Nation on Stage

From the Director : Dom Mercer

December 10, 2018

Our first production for 2019, Grounded,  hits our stage in March.  We spoke with director Dom Mercer about this powerful production.

What attracted you to Grounded?

The story at the heart of this play is incredible – powerful, raw and full of surprises. Not only that, but it doesn’t pull any punches and audiences should be prepared for a story with twists and turns that keep them on the edge of their seat, and a powerful message about the changing nature of global conflicts and the unseen psychological costs. That the ‘frontline’ for some soldiers is also the ‘homefront’ is a uniquely 21st century phenomenon and we are moving into uncharted/unobserved territory.

The way the playwright structures each piece of the story for an audience, and to embodied by just a single performer on the stage, is a masterclass in storytelling – or at least it would be if you weren’t so invested how the story unfolds.

There is a quality to the language of the play that is exciting too. It has movement and colour at the top of the work, and how these features evolve across the work to match the journey of the character is quite brilliant. The work, while penned by an American playwright, speaks very much to issues facing Australia as part of any Western Coalition in global conflicts.

What will audiences leave the theatre with?

Audiences will be knocked breathless by the end of the piece. Emily Havea is perfect for the role, and is equal parts excited and intimidated by the challenges the role presents. Her performance will be one audiences will remember for a long time – and will have a visceral impact.

While I think this is a brilliantly smart play, I think audiences will get swept up in the story, and then be moved by where it leads them. When a character is robbed of the very things that gave them freedom and was the reason they chose their specific way of life, the outcome is always going to be dramatic. I want audiences to get a taste of ‘the big blue’, only to have them robbed of that experience…

I also hope audiences will be moved to contemplate the different ways in which the psychological impact of modern warfare is affecting our serving and returning veterans/military families. This is a play about maternity and sexuality as much as it is about the figure of ‘the warrior’ in any given society. What playwright George Brant does so well is humanise both lenses through which we are asked to view specifically Service women.

The playwright wrote this piece in what he describes as a ‘fever’, just sitting down and letting it come to him quickly in the first instance. I think that driving energy is at the core of the work, and will be tangible for audiences.

What are you most excited about working on this project?

I believe Emily Havea is one of the best up and coming acting talents in the country, and I think audiences who see this show will remember it in years to come as the moment they realised just how good she is. It is my hope that it will be career defining.

Why is this play important to you?

This play examines the complex struggles of modern warfare. It places an alpha female at its centre. A woman who is brilliant at her job, and who is at ease with her power, sexuality and place as a soldier.

I feel like the experience of male soldiers has been at the centre of these stories across all mediums right across history, so it is both important and thrilling to come across such an uncompromising, rich and visceral exploration of these themes with a woman at the centre.

What is your  connection to Western Sydney?

I grew up in Thirlmere, which is about 30 minutes further west of Campbelltown, so for me, many of my first introductions to cultural events took place in Western Sydney. The Campbelltown Arts Centre, Riverside Theatres and even The Joan were much more accessible than the city companies. As such I feel a deep affinity to Western Sydney.

What are you most excited about working with National Theatre of Parramatta?

NTofP is one of the most exciting theatre companies in the country. It is a company that is still forging its identity for bold, relevant and enticing work for audiences. As someone who grew up outside the central paradigm of Sydney’s culture institutes, it is extremely exciting to be part of a season that is looking to build culture in and for Western Sydney.

I have an enormous belief in and passion for what NTofP is building, and am both humbled and super excited to be working with the company.

Tickets are now available for GROUNDED 
14 March – 23 March 2019