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‘2 Marys’: a story of cross-gendered courage

5 January 2022

Rich in Frankenstein imagery, 2 Marys is bringing a transgressive true tale of love, betrayal and abandonment to Midland Junction Arts Centre this month.

It’s 1825 and the gothic novelist Mary Shelley finds herself at the centre of a story just as gripping as her own fiction. Her friend Mary Diana Dods confides that she has decided to pass herself as a man, so that she may marry a pregnant married friend.

What unfolds is a true tale of cross-gendered courage, brought to life in 2 Marys, a new theatre work by local playwright/director Suzanne Ingelbrecht. She takes Nina Levy behind the scenes.

A headshot of Suzanne Inglebrecht the playwright of 2 Marys. She has blonde curly hair streaked with grey and blue eyes and is smiling at the camera.
Suzanne Ingelbrecht

Nina Levy: Welcome to Seesaw Mag’s Festival Sessions Suzanne. For readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Suzanne Ingelbrecht: I’m a practising professional playwright and director who’s been producing boutique independent theatre shows locally and overseas for more than 20 years.

My first critical success was the Blue Room Theatre production Fragmented, which instigated the founding of my company Fragmented Artists, and kick-started an artistic career that has spanned writing, directing, producing and more recently acting and singing!

I’ve worked a lot with artists with disability, including the fine ensemble team at Back to Back Theatre in Geelong, Victoria; and Lung Ha Theatre Company in Edinburgh; and most recently I’ve had the honour of curating the first ever immersive exhibition (“Sense and Sensitivity”) by mid-career artists identifying as autistic at the John Curtin Gallery.

NL: Tell us about 2 Marys, the work you are presenting at Fringe World 2022.

SI: I’m presenting a new play about a little-known friendship between Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley and the writer Mary Diana Dods. As current artist-in-residence at Midland Junction Arts Centre (MJAC), I’ve been working with my Fragmented Artists’ ensemble team on the shadow play and audio-visual effects for the production, that support the play’s elements of water, fire, air and earth. It’s super exciting to be working with such great local talent as Chris Horgan, Shirley Van Sanden, Nichola Renton – as well as upcoming costume designer and WAAPA graduate Qi Cao – on what will be a world premiere for Fringe that we hope will have other lives elsewhere…

NL: What inspired you to make 2 Marys?

SI: Really, the transgressiveness of the story that, for its time, was out there; and also required great courage on the part of Mary Dods. I’m determined that 2 Marys begins to bring Mary Dods – who was really unknown during her lifetime – back from the literary wilderness!

Also I Love Frankenstein… its themes of betrayal and abandonment speak to our times…and human curiosity to open that Pandora’s Box without thinking about consequences!

NL: What do you hope audiences will take away from your show?

SI: I want them to go away and find out more about Mary Shelley and Mary Dods – the times that both these women lived and worked in – and count their own blessings for good health and the choices they have in life and love.

NL: What happens behind the scenes of 2 Marys?

Have a look at this time lapse glimpse into filmed shadow play effects for 2 Marys, created during the artist residency at MJAC; featuring Chris Horgan and me. (Credit: Chris Horgan, Organic Productions.)

NL: Can you take us into the creative process of making 2 Marys?

SI: I wrote the first two drafts of the play while I was the KSP Writers’ Centre 2021 Established Writer in Residence. It was so great to have the time and space simply to write, and then to be awarded the MJAC residency was the icing on the cake that meant I could take the work forward. We’ve been working hard on creating the supporting textures to the show, the audio work and the visuals, and now I’m really looking forward to the nitty gritty of finding the characters in rehearsal.

NL: What are you looking forward to seeing at Fringe World 2022?

SI: I really want to see Vivienne Walshe’s This Is Where We Live, which is being put on by Fremantle’s Feet First Collective. I remember seeing an unfinished version of the play when the National Playwright’s Conference was held in Perth years ago and being really impressed with the quality of the writing. Then it went on to win the Griffin Award in 2012… it’s a testament to Vivienne’s resilience to keep redrafting; and really to all of us – writers, actors, directors – never to give up believing in a project and process!

NL: What’s next for you after Fringe World 2022?

SI: I’ll be working with Spectrum Space and young neurodiverse adults on a reimagining and retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for some sort of live presentation later next year. I’m also looking forward to continuing my artistic collaboration with the neurodiverse theatre director Dan Graham in Sydney. Dan and I have talked about him directing his own version of 2 Marys in Sydney…

NL: What is your favourite part of the playground?

SI: Why the swing of course… 🙂

2 Marys plays Midland Junction Arts Centre as part of Fringe World, 14-16 January 2022.

Pictured top: Shirley Van Sanden plays Mary Diana Dods in Suzanne Ingelbrecht’s upcoming ‘2 Marys’. Photo: Chris Horgan, Organic Productions.

“The Festival Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists whose work will be appearing in Perth’s summer festivals.
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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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