From Isolate To Award Winner
At one point during last year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, Katy Warner had three people turn up to a performance of her new play These are the isolate. Now she has won awards for the piece and has been invited to renew the season at St Kilda’s Theatre Works.
It all started when Katy Warner, originally from Perth, decided to leave the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) where she was training as an actor.
“Personally I was in a situation where I felt very isolated … I went from having a lot of friends and a big network to really being a little bit on my own. So writing the play was, in a way, a bit of therapy for me to get through those sort of feelings,” she explains.
Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s work, Katy named the play after a line from Plath’s poem Elm and while not directly related to the poem itself, explores similar themes. “Whether that’s a conscious or a subconscious thing I’m still not sure,” she wonders.
From this point, Katy went on to research about social isolation and found that there was a lot of interesting stories about middle-aged men and the effects of social isolation in their lives including anxiety and depression.
“It’s such a current issue and it’s really good that we’ve started talking about it now. … I don’t think [the play] is going to teach anyone about depression but I think that it definitely will make people talk about it. I hope so,” she says.
Katy was able to explore the themes of the piece further, performing in the two-person play herself. “It’s really difficult writing a piece and then being in it and I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it is. It’s been a bit of a learning experience for me.”
“As a writer you’re always wanting to make changes to your script and you can’t do that to your director and fellow actors,” she laughs, “It’s just not fair.”
These are the isolate received generally positive reviews, especially from theatre critic Cameron Woodhead who referred to the piece as “astonishing theatre”. “I’m really excited by the response that we’ve got … just getting people to believe in your work like that is fabulous.”
As the recipient of the Theatre Works Melbourne Fringe Award Katy, in conjunction with Mutation Theatre, will stage These are the isolate this month at the St Kilda venue.
“The Theatre Works award has just been incredible in that someone would invest so much into an emerging company like Mutation Theatre and give us a go. We wouldn’t really be able to afford the Theatre Works space our self,” she says describing the experience of working with the professional company.
Now Katy hopes that with the added exposure and larger performance space These are the isolate can reach a new, wider audience. “We’ve got a lot more interest because a lot of people heard about it during Fringe but missed out on seeing it. By the time word got around the season was coming to an end.”
“We’ve also got a lot of people coming back who saw it during Fringe because they’re really interested to see the changes that we’ve made.”
The issue of female playwrights lack of exposure has become a hot topic in the theatre scene. With playwrights such as Lally Katz and Sarah Ruhl becoming increasingly featured in Australian theatre seasons, Katy (who was recognised with the Best Emerging Playwright award at last year’s Fringe Festival) believes it’s an exciting time for her to be a new female playwright.
“I think I’m coming into it at a good time when people are taking notice of the issue. I’m just trying my best, … I’ll keep writing and getting my work out there.”
These are the isolate will be playing at Theatre Works (14 Acland St, St Kilda) from March 16 to 27. You can book online or by phone: 9534 3388.