theatre: and then there were 3
In a phone interview last week with writer, director and performer Michelle Higgs about her new play ‘And Then There Were 3’, I was filled in on the in-and-outs and up-and-downs of playwriting and parenting.
Debuting at the Street Theatre, Canberra from December 4-8, ‘And Then There Were 3’ is a play centred on a couple unexpectedly thrown into parenthood; a play about the difficulties and surprises of starting a family. Originally intended by Michelle and her husband Craig to be a simple comedy, with the baby included for the effect it had on the couple’s relationship, the play took a darker turn after working with the Hive project at the Street Theatre. Suddenly, the production became more about their own lives- more truthful and powerful than initially planned, with perhaps more shades of dark than light. A shocked father and a moody mother, who both loves and resents the new arrival, combine with a fate character who controls the movements of the baby (played by a puppet) and simultaneously intervenes in the lives of both parents, often with cruel pranks involving baby spew or dirty nappies.
The question of the creative process (especially when the co-authors are husband and wife) is an important one: Michelle said that her and Craig would improvise conversations, write them down and then refine the dialogue to make it work dramatically. The challenge, Michelle explained, was not so much to write it down but to have others read it, who might raise problems or suggest changes: for example, the inevitable question as to why the couple were together at all came up repeatedly, she said. Dissecting and challenging a text is a necessary stage of development in any writing, Michelle acknowledged, but in this case it is deeply personal; intimate details about of her and Craig’s relationship is revealed.
Michelle’s other passion in life is photography, which has aided her immensely on stage too. For Michelle, both photography and directing are all about story-telling. They’re both about relationships; with the idea of each being to make people respond emotionally. Ideally, if the show was to be taken on a national tour, Michelle wants to have a photographic exhibition of her work to accompany the performance.
So, is the outcome on the joys of parenting positive or negative? The play has been received with mixed reviews in relation to this question, it seems that those with children understand that the difficulties of parenting and the beautiful nature of it can come often hand in hand, whilst those without children seem to respond differently- almost fearfully. Michelle says that her and Craig are onto their fourth baby and both hope that whilst the play certainly depicts the trials and tribulations parenthood, the joy of parenting also becomes apparent in ‘And Then There Were 3’.
If you were unable to catch And Then There Were 3 at The Street Theatre, never fear, a national tour is on the cards so keep your eyes peeled here for more updates!