Ensemble cast member Miranda Daughtry says Sense and Sensibility has it all.
Power, patriarchy and a fierce feminist makes for good theatre
At 25 years-old, actor Miranda Daughtry is only in the early stages of her career.
Yet, a South Australian critics circle award and a full year working with the State Theatre Company’s ensemble cast speak to the clear potential of the young actor’s career.
Miranda has always been around theatre. Her parents owned and operated a small, christian theatre company and Miranda – along with the entire set – would often get packed in the car by her parents and toured around South Australian schools. Her mum would design the sets and costumes, while dad would direct, act and write from many of the plays their company mounted.
In adult life, Miranda moved to Sydney and studied at NIDA. After graduating, director Geordie Brookman brought her back to South Australia to join the State Theatre Company’s ensemble cast which is currently performing its last show – Sense and Sensibility.
“I’m under the impression that there’s no official ensemble [anywhere else in Australia],” says Miranda. “There are companies who have a core ensemble but it’s not quite as strictly contractual as this situation. It’s bizarre. People don’t do this kind of thing.”
With absolute gratitude for her selection as part of the ensemble, Miranda doesn’t dote on the fantastic opportunity, how lucky she was to be chosen, or how much she’ll miss her colleagues at the conclusion of the Sense and Sensibility season though.
Instead, Miranda turns to the subject of sexism and the ensemble’s critical role in changing and challenging the status quo of theatre.
“We are facing, like most industries, the uncovering of abuse,” says Miranda.
“It feels like we’re in the midst of huge, institutional change at the moment. We’re having a change of protocol in every major theatre around the country.
“Being in this ensemble – where we’re able to have constant discussions and we’re able to feed back to the company about how the protocol is working and we’re able to actually develop it because we’ve got people consistently working. I think that’s quite rare and also important.”
Almost too scared to ask, we question whether Miranda – in her brief career to-date – has experienced any misconduct or been made to feel uncomfortable.
Miranda pauses on the full stop of this acknowledgement before continuing.
“Any place where you have hierarchy and power there’s room for misuse and we don’t live in a culture where people understand how easy it is to misuse power. We don’t have a culture that acknowledges the patriarchy that’s intrinsic to it. Which is where the ensemble’s dialogue and this consistent work is important because it takes time to trust each other enough to have those conversations or create a place where you can challenge the status quo.”
Workplaces are often taken for granted by those working in them but putting actors into regular and paid work with the same group of people for a year is just the sort of experiment that’s bound to redefine what a workplace can be.
“When you first come out you do accept [sexist behaviour] because you are at the bottom.
“As a student you’re taught to just go with it, to say, ‘yes’ and to continue and to go, ‘well it’s hard, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and that’s fine,’ instead of going – ‘yes but there’s a point at which this discomfort is unnecessary and I’m allowed to speak up'”.
Gaining the confidence over three separate productions, having constant contact with colleagues, an open and present director in Geordie Brookman, and the backdrop of the Weinstein monster gave Miranda and the entire ensemble cast carte blanche to build a better way to perform.
“As much as I consider myself a fierce feminist I don’t have the answers and men can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman. I don’t understand, also, how the patriarchal structure has also oppressed the men in this room. It’s been fascinating to uncover the way in which it divides people and cancels out that ability for clear and open communication,” says Miranda.
In every way, Sense and Sensibility is the culmination of the ensemble’s commitment to building a better way to do theatre. After their three previous shows, Miranda says the ensemble is really ready for this comedy.
“Becaues Geordie [Brookman] is in the room with us all the time – he’s a part of this open and inclusive conversation we’re all having and this show has really brought us to a stage where we’re really able to create a room that doesn’t feel as hierarchical as the traditional structure,” says Miranda.
“It feels genuine, open, and playful”.