Jurassica is a story of family, migration, language and growing old. Ahead of its opening at The Q theatre in Queanbeyan, NSW, this week, be:longing‘s Dunja Cvjetićanin caught up with the show’s director, Bridget Balodis, to hear more about the stories behind the play, as well as some of the directorial challenges involved in bringing Dan Giovannoni’s script to the stage.
For more information about the show as well as a link to The Q’s website (where you can find tickets), see the bottom of this article.
Image sourced from The Q’s website
Dunja Cvjetićanin (DC): Bridget Balodis, you are the director of Jurassica, a play written by Dan Giovannoni. Tell us a bit about yourself, your history in theatre, and how you got involved in this production.
Bridget Balodis (BB): I’ve been directing for about 7 or 8 years now and I work primarily with new Australian playwrights. I actually started out in Canberra, studying theatre at the ANU and working a little at the Street Theatre, before moving to Melbourne to do some post-graduate study in 2010. I recently spent a few years working in the US but I found I missed home and the collaborators I have here too much, so I’m back. These days I work in independent theatre in Melbourne, and what’s important to me is supporting contemporary Australian works and writers.
I first worked with Dan in 2011 and 2012 on a big immersive theatre event, and after that we started talking about working together on a play, and Jurassica was a great fit for us because we both came from similar experiences of being the descendants of post-war immigrants, of being ‘other’ to Anglo-Australians but being nothing but Aussie when overseas.
DC: Jurassica touches on themes of migration, family, language and community. Do you feel a personal connection to these themes in your own life? How does the play address these themes?
BB: I’m the grandchild of post-World War Two immigrants, Latvians who came out here and were put to work in far north Queensland. So I can definitely relate to the themes in the play, particularly those of loss of language and loss of culture. It happens quickly across generations. I think immigration and its impact gives us a really interesting way of looking at family and relationships and the way we actually make connections, particularly when language is a missing link – often we do it through food, story, humour and physical contact. This play really emphasises those things. [I] think [it is] also a thank you to that generation – people [who] had nothing, [who] took a huge chance and who came to the other side of the world just so that we, Dan and my generation, could be better off.
DC: What were some of the challenges in directing this show? Did you need to take a different approach, given it’s a multilingual script? (Do you speak Italian yourself?)
BB: I actually studied Italian from primary school right through to university, so at one point I was relatively good at it – although these days I’m not that confident with speaking. I was, however, quite able to read the Italian in the script and know most of what it meant. It also helps that Joe, the actor that plays Ralph in the play, is an Italian Australian, so he was very helpful to both me and the other cast members. The languages (both Italian and English) are also used in the play in a way that non-Italian speakers can still understand what’s happening.
The main challenge in directing this show is actually the way it jumps around in time and place. [There are] two narrative threads: one that takes place over a single night at a hospital in Melbourne, and one that spans the entirety of Ralph’s adult life, in memories. Making the shifts between these threads was the biggest challenge, particularly as the play was originally staged in a very small theatre. We wanted to give the effect of the memories blurring and bleeding into the ‘reality’ and I think, between the designers and myself, we were able to achieve that.
DC: What did this production teach you about the experience of migrants in Australia and the cross-cultural difficulties that can sometimes arise? How did the cast and crew approach the cross-cultural situations the script brought up?
BB: I think that what’s beautiful about this story is that it’s actually very particular to Dan’s family and experience and yet, there’s something common to a lot of people’s migrant experiences: disconnection, loneliness, and misunderstanding; but also tremendous love, acceptance and nostalgia for ‘home’.
Despite these common resonances, it was important to us to get as specific as we could with these characters and situations, we didn’t want to enter into cliches about migrants and their experiences. [For] the cast and crew, we try not to think about this as a ‘migrant story’, but as the story of one family and of the connections between three generations.
DC: What do you think that Australians – whether migrants or not – will get from the play, and what can they learn?
BB: I think it’s ultimately about family, and the complexity of those relationships; that you can find someone so difficult and irritating and be absolutely heartbroken when you lose them. It’s about the depth of those connections and the things that are chosen to be passed on to the next generation.
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Jurassica will be playing at The Q theatre in Queanbeyan, NSW, from Wednesday 19 to Saturday 22 September 2018. To find out more about the play as well as find tickets, check out The Q’s website, here: http://www.theq.net.au/jurassica/.
© Bridget Balodis and Dunja Cvjetićanin, 2018