Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Theatre

Channelling ghosts on the graveyard shift

21 January 2020

If you’re looking for something spooky this Fringe, Hannah Cockroft’s new play Talkback promises plenty of paranormal activity.

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Local emerging playwright Hannah Cockroft gives Seesaw the lowdown on her first full-length work.

Seesaw: Hannah, tell us about your career path to date.
Hannah Cockroft:
I’m a Perth-based creative writer, currently focusing on playwriting. I first started writing for theatre in 2017 whilst I was participating in Australian Theatre for Young People’s (ATYP) Fresh Ink program, co-presented in partnership with Barking Gecko Theatre, which was my first experience with having my work performed in a public reading. In 2019 my short play The Little Death was selected for production as part of ATYP’s “Intersection: Arrival” at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre, which was the first time that any of my work had been staged in a professional production. Talkback is my first full-length play, and my Perth theatre debut.

If you're looking for a spooky night out this Fringe, you've come to the right place, according to playwright Hannah Cockcroft.
Hannah Cockcroft

S: Describe your artistic practice…
Once I’ve landed on a premise that I find interesting and want to turn into a story, my artistic practice consists of me sitting down for 30 minutes, writing a page, going to the kitchen for a biscuit, coming back to my laptop, editing what I’ve written, taking a music break, going to the kitchen for olives, writing three more lines and going to bed.

For the parts that actually involve writing, I like to take breaks to grab my notebook and brainstorm all sorts of various directions that the next scene could go in. Even if I know what I think should happen next, I really enjoy thinking about the most ridiculous scenario for what could happen next. I also like to think of what my characters would do if they had been put into a different story. It can feel liberating to get away from the plot that you’re trying to string together and go somewhere else for 10 minutes, and you find out things about these characters that wouldn’t have occurred to you before.

S: What made you decide to give Fringe World a whirl?
Fringe is the time of year where most people in Perth will make the effort to go out and experience theatre. I love that it’s not just people who are involved in the arts community or are regular theatre goers – everyone joins in. As an emerging artist, it’s really exciting to have my work included in a festival where so many people come out to see what’s on offer.

S: Tell us about your 2020 Fringe World show, Talkback.
Talkback centres around Margie, an ageing and fraudulent medium working the graveyard shift at a community radio station. Along with her producer Russell, they take calls from listeners hoping to get in touch with their deceased loved ones and con their way into providing closure. One night, Margie gets a call from her childhood friend, Dawn, and finds out that she may be able to speak with the dead after all.

S: What differentiates Talkback from the 700 or so other Fringe World shows on offer?
Talkback is one of the Festival’s world premieres and has been put together by some of Perth’s emerging young creatives and theatre makers. By seeing it, you’ll be supporting new and local independent theatre. Good job you! It’s also good spooky night out. Come for the local theatre, stay for the ghost children.

S: Who will Talkback appeal to?
If you enjoy horror movies this would be a great theatre experience for you, however the show is about a lot more than giving you a fright. Talkback also explores workplace dynamics, childhood trauma, and the nuances of female friendships. Grab a group of co-workers and come down for a shared experience.

S: What inspired you to make Talkback?
I think there’s something really interesting about how kids gain an understanding of what they can get away with. You can see them pushing things further, bit by bit, to see how far they can take things before they suffer the consequences. This concept is the driving force behind Margie and Dawn’s friendship – they’re in constant battle to find out who has the most power, to the point where it creates lasting damage. I loved the idea of revisiting that relationship dynamic between an older woman and someone who’s eternally a child.

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
Flying Fox – has a cool name and goes fast.

Talkback plays The Blue Room Theatre, 28 Jan – 1 Feb, as part of the Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program at Fringe World.

“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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