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June 11, 2018
Culture

What needed to be said

Jada Alberts finds life in the darkness of death and brings an important vision and voice to the stage with the State Theatre Company’s 'Brothers Wreck'.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Picture: Sia Duff

Jada Alberts didn’t start writing plays because she had a burning desire to embrace the medium. Instead, the Larrakia, Bardi, Wadaman, and Yanuwa artist – who works as an actor, musician, painter, and poet – saw the necessity in becoming a playwright.

“I started to realise people like us weren’t in the media I consumed,” says Jada. “They weren’t often on television and particularly not in the theatre.

 “You can’t lean back and go, there’s the story over there and I’m here… you’re pulled into it.” 

“So, I wanted to write about things that were affecting us, but also just put some young black faces on stage who were dealing with what my family were dealing with.”

That need became particularly urgent when Jada watched her cousins suffering after a close friend committed suicide in 2013.

Remarks

 Brothers Wreck is playing June 27 – July 14 at the Odeon Theatre 

Suicide was something that had affected Jada and her loved ones directly many times, and she began to worry that an inability to discuss it was lending a greater ferocity to the trauma associated with each loss.

“There were these deaths that the communities I was part of didn’t talk about,” she says. “What we now know is that there’s a really strong possibility that in people who are affected by friends and family that commit suicide, there’s a contagion that can happen.

“So, there has to be a safe way to talk about how we feel about people we have lost in that way… and I thought maybe telling the story is the way we can do that.”

Brothers Wreck – Jada’s debut as a playwright – was first presented by Sydney’s Belvoir in 2014. After a strong critical reception, it is now being remounted in a collaboration between Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne and the State Theatre Company of South Australia.

The original season was directed by Leah Purcell, but for this next run Jada is taking on the director’s role herself.

This, too, is something Jada feels is important for Australian theatre because she sees only a  few Indigenous directors working nationally. But it’s also a decision she made because her vision for the show has evolved since 2014.

“For the Belvoir season we went with a very realistic and naturalistic set, which is in the writing,” says Jada, “but when we started talking about the possibility we would do this show again, I immediately wondered about doing something different. I wanted to look at how we could tell this story in a psychological space and how we could get an audience to feel the things the characters feel.

“So you can’t lean back and go, there’s the story over there and I’m here, but so you’re pulled into it in a way that we’re kind of stuck with the characters and until they have a resolution you don’t have one either.”

Some elements of the original Sydney season, though, will remain. Dale Ferguson – the designer who worked on the initial production – will be returning to create the very different world Jada is envisioning for the Adelaide and Melbourne seasons. Cast member Lisa Flanagan also returns to her well-received role as Petra.

But as much as the team and the work changes or stays the same for this new season, there is one thing that will always remain constant in Brothers Wreck – Jada’s determination that a show dealing with something dark can shine with the possibility of a brighter future. 

“It is very much a story of hope and survival  – a coming together of family,” she says.

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