Why the humble game of netball as a setting for your unfolding drama?
Netball is all about keeping a woman in her place and identifying her by the task she does. That is (a subject) ripe for picking, as is the politics of all female organisations. On top of that, it is such a huge part of Australian life that hasn't really been touched in our national storytelling, Kath and Kim aside.
What do you think the game of netball reflects about Australian society?
Australians love rules and restrictions. We think we are terribly carefree and nonchalant but we love to organise and codify things, especially our leisure activities.
Is the netball court familiar territory for you personally?
I have played quite a few games of mixed netball, but it is a very frustrating experience for a basketballer. The skills required to operate within the rules are extraordinary.
Is Coach Bev based on anyone from real life or is she an amalgam of people?
She has a bit of coaches from my youth, with a touch of Bronwyn Bishop, Norma Plummer (former Australian Coach) and a few people I met while living in Warrnambool.
What has been the reaction from big netball fans who have seen the show?
I was nervous about this but the response has been all positive. The most extreme comment from an audience member was that she felt that it validated a huge part of her life. I think netballers have been delighted to see their game and parts of their life depicted on stage. We make fun of netball at times in the show but we never mock it.
Opera music and netball come from completely different worlds – how do you gel them together in this production?
Many operas were about soldiers who had conflicts between their duty and their desires. You can substitute sport for war quite successfully and the passion that people feel for their sport is easy to depict in operatic language – they are two of the few things in our life where you get to witness the sublime fairly frequently. With regards to netball I have tried to reflect the stop-start nature of the game in the rhythms I have used. Much of the music has an angular quality which suits netball.
Are there other operas through time about sport or are you breaking new opera territory here?
I believe there may have been an opera about soccer but I am surprised there haven't been more. All those men falling from grace and then redeeming themselves and the women who stand by them... there is so much to choose from. I would love to do something about AFL but of course half the country wouldn't be interested.
With productions like Keating!, do you think there is a growing thirst for tongue-in-cheek Australia musical theatre out there?
Keating! may have been tongue-in-cheek but the audience was full of misty eyed lefties indulging in some pretty full-on nostalgia for the good old days. We love anything that celebrates and acknowledges who we are, especially if it is a bit daggy or embarrassing. That is a nice quality don't you think?