Thursday, 28 July 2011

Interview: Angela Betzien

1. What inspired you to write "War Crimes"?

I was inspired by a real event that caused quite a stir in a regional town a few years ago. This was the story of five girls who desecrated a war memorial on the eve of ANZAC day with anti-war slogans.  I was also inspired by a project that my colleagues were working on in collaboration with young teenage girls living in Shepparton. I realized the stories of girls like these weren’t often told and I wanted to do something about that.

2. Which true stories are events/characters in the play based on?

While the real event was the inspiration for War Crimes I didn’t seek to research the particular case, rather I was interested in creating a completely fictional narrative. None of the characters in the play are based on real people.

3. Could you explain (in a nutshell!) your interpretation of each of the characters?

Jade, the protagonist of the play, is a born leader. She thinks she  can handle anything and anyone. Jade has lived in this town her entire life but she has dreams of escape, of becoming something more than a poorly paid worker at the local abattoir.  

Jordan is a really confused foster kid. She’s completely disconnected from her family and culture.  She has never felt safe or protected and she has a history of violence and substance abuse. She is also struggling to come to terms with her sexual identity.

Lara has always been Jade’s best friend. They’ve grown up together but unlike Jade, Lara can’t imagine a life outside the country town. Lara’s got problems at home and she’s angry at the world. Lara takes this anger out on anyone who is different or who she perceives as a threat to her group of friends.

Rick is a follower. She doesn’t do well at school. She’d jump off a cliff if Lara or Jade told her too. Poor Ricky just wants the gang to stay together.

Ishtar is only sixteen but she’s already accrued a lifetime of experience fleeing a war torn country and spending her early child hood in a refugee camp. Ishtar is torn between wanting to be like everyone else at her school and the great expectations of her family and culture.
4. How do you think students will respond to the play and the issues raised?

I hope that students will be challenged by this play. If a story doesn’t confront and challenge than I don’t think it’s really worth telling. There are loads of issues imbedded in this play and it may take awhile to sort through all these, but hopefully this will lead to some healthy debate and critical thinking. I also hope students will also enjoy the action packed storytelling. I don’t want this production to be boring at any time. Theatre should be thrilling, full on, in your face.

5. What issues do you think are at the heart of this play?

There are loads of issues in the play: violence, sexuality, rape, racism, war… the list goes on.

At the heart of the play though are the themes of betrayal, loyalty and belonging.

6. Do you have a favourite moment in the script?

My favourite moment in the play is when Jordan spray paints the cave with handprints using some ochre coloured aerosols. She does this as a gift to Jade, as an apology for her betrayal. When Jade rejects the offer, accusing Jordan of desecrating the sacred place, Jordan is devastated and spirals into a dark and violent state.

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