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permission to spin: an interview with the playwright

                                          Mary Rachel Brown: Writer of PERMISSION TO SPIN

Miss Polkadot finds out that her children’s music is being used as an instrument of torture .  She is on the eve of being a global phenomenon and is now set on taking back control.  Billed as a “funny till it’s not cage fight between art and ethics” PERMISSION TO SPIN from Red Line Productions is soon opening at the Old Fitz Theatre and we had the opportunity to ask some questions of writer and co-director, Mary Rachel Brown.

SAG:  Thank you for speaking with The Guide about PERMISSION TO SPIN.  “Music as torture”.  There’s got to be a good story about how that theme occurred to you and why you thought it would make a theatre piece.  I’m still getting over the invisible greyhounds in your play THE DAPTO  CHASER!

MARY : This play will provide solace to parents who have done a lot of  ‘Wiggles’ during their child’s formative years, but just when you get comfortable in your seat we will take you to a whole new level of how torturous music can be when in the wrong hands and used with the wrong intention.

SAG:  Torture indeed! There’s not a great deal about the show around yet but there seems to be a real moral complexity at the heart of PERMISSION TO SPIN … but wrapped in comic moments.   It’s one of the things I love about other of your works. Does the lighter aspect come organically when you are writing or are they the agonising bits?

MARY:  I am hardwired for comedy. The moral complexity at the heart of ‘Permission to Spin’ is a hard pill to swallow, it needs to be bookended with comedy.

SAG:  So you took the script to the hotINK Festival did that change the shape of the piece?

MARY:   ‘Permission to Spin’ is a bold play, and the American actors at hotINK went for big choices which really brought the potential of the piece to life. What has shifted the play is the changes in American politics since 2007. As many writers and comedians say, it is hard to up-stage the outrageousness of Trump. Truth has overtaken fiction in its largess. In many respects, the madness of the Trump era meant I could really take the gloves off. The characters have got more outrageous and dangerous, which has produced higher stakes in the work.  

The big change to the script is it used to be an all-male four-hander, now it is a three-hander, with two men and one woman. The play has a lot to say about how celebrity intersects with entitlement. In that respect, it was important to get a female character in the play. The subject matter of ‘Permission to Spin’ speaks to many of the cultural shifts that are coming with the ‘Me too’ movement.

SAG:  You are co-directing at The Old Fitz with Dino Dimitriadis, I’m always interested about how much a written work changes when it gets on the floor.  You know when the cast get stuck in!

MARY:  We have only four-week rehearsal, not enough time to make many changes.  There was a lot dramaturgical on the script leading up to day one on the floor because we needed to hit the ground running…and we did, this play is a sprinter, running at an hour ten. We have a smart and funny group of actors and they helped me make a few tweaks, mainly in the form of cuts.

SAG:   That must be keeping everyone flat out. Plus you have an interesting design team in Veronique Benett and Cris Baldwin, Isabella Cannavo – I think I have seen both their work at NIDA showcases.  How are they liking the very eclectic Old Fitz?

MARY:   The intimacy of the venue means there is nowhere to hide, designers, actors, directors and audiences all love this aspect of making and seeing work at The Old Fitz. At present we are at the pointy end of production week opening on the 3rd of July, so our design team are drinking a lot of coffee. Once we have opened, they will move on to wine and beer. One of the advantages of working in a theatre attached to a pub.

SAG:   Yep.  I have seen that a few times in the audiences there too.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the show.   So just a final question … art or ethics what will we take from the theatre do you think?

MARY:   Hopefully, awareness of how easy it is for art to be manipulated, misused and misrepresented, look at the Trump campaigns use of Bruce Springsteens’s ‘Born in the USA’  Sometimes the line between art and marketing is blurred, and the public are not encouraged to or motivated to distinguish between the two. ‘Permission to Spin’ has a lot to say about this.

SAG:  Thanks again for talking to our readers and best wishes for a successful season.

PERMISSION TO SPIN from Red Line Productions [Facebook] will play at the Old Fitz Theatre July 3 -28, 2018.

PERMISSION TO SPIN cast: Yure Covich, Anna Houston and Arky Michael
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