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Concrete Playground meets Actor/Writer Ian Meadows and his Climate-Change Rom-Com

Meadows explores the funny and terrifying ways an uncertain future can affect Gen X and Y's family planning.
By Jessica Keath
October 04, 2012

Concrete Playground meets Actor/Writer Ian Meadows and his Climate-Change Rom-Com

Meadows explores the funny and terrifying ways an uncertain future can affect Gen X and Y's family planning.
By Jessica Keath
October 04, 2012

In a world of flash floods and rising sea levels, who'd start a family? In his dark romantic comedy, actor and writer Ian Meadows (seen last year in The Coming World and Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo) explores the funny and terrifying ways an uncertain future can affect Gen X and Y's family planning. He spoke to Concrete Playground about science, working with Sam Strong, and babies in his upcoming play at Griffin, Between Two Waves.

So, without giving away any plot spoilers, tell me a bit about Between Two Waves.

It's about a climatologist called Daniel Wells who has been approached by the minister for climate change and energy efficiency to move from science to working in policy. He's particularly anxious about the future, and he's quite a withheld, constrained person. He meets a woman who is very much the opposite of that — spontaneous and carefree. If his fault is not being able to live in the moment, then hers is not being able to think about what might happen in the future. They collide, and it works, and they face the idea of a future together with children. The play revolves around this love story, and whether he is able to live in the present or just be completely terrified about a future that might come.

I guess it was only a matter of time until someone wrote a romantic comedy about climate change!

Yeah totally, the idea was to make it as funny and full of life as possible, because you're dealing with those potentially darker, more serious social and political themes.

Earlier in the year, Melbourne Theatre Company had Richard Bean's The Heretic on, a polemic about climate sceptics. Andrew Bolt loved it! Is there any persuading going on in your play?

I'm more interested in the human, emotional core of someone who is scared of a potential future. I'll let people make up their own minds. I think Andrew Bolt would probably be less happy with my reading of the climate science.

So in terms of getting that onto the stage, how do you write, because you're an actor as well — are you at the desk or are you on the floor improvising and then writing?

I love improvising when I can, but with this particular project I've been working on it for quite a while, in different forms. It began as a screenplay that was developed with the assistance of Screen NSW early on, but we could never quite get it up, so Sam [Strong] came on as a script editor on the film script in my last round of development at the NSW FTO [Film and Television Office] a couple of years ago, and when he became artistic director of Griffin, he said, hey, what do you think about this as a play? It had always been a very dialogue-driven, very character-driven sort of film, so I got very excited about that idea.

Do you ever feel that there might be a risk of making writing choices based on your comfort zone as an actor?

Yeah, that's a really interesting point, because as an actor, you have a script and it's your job to make it work, whereas when you've written something where you're also acting, I could just write something else couldn't I? [laughs] Something easier?

And you were part of Griffin Studio last year?

Yeah, it was incredible. We'd meet once a week and throw ideas around, which as a writer is excellent, because otherwise you're stuck at your computer. Just being in a room with other great minds is so freeing. We did numerous readings of the play, which is endlessly helpful as a writer, to hear it out loud. There were some great actors: Maeve Dermody, Ewen Lesley, Andrew McFarlane, Susan Prior — great people. I'd go away and do a draft and then we'd do again and we'd do it again and we'd do it again. I had a lot of opportunities … basically, if it's a terrible play, I've got no excuse [laughs]

I'll keep that in mind! So then Sam's come on board to direct. How's that process been?

It's awesome. Sam and I have been good friends for a while and he dramaturged the thing as a film script, so his imprint is all over it. As a director, there's nothing that he enforces upon anyone or on the script, it's all suggestions — sometimes I'm trying to decipher what it is he's saying! [laughs] I really trust his instinct. He really knows the script and he's been really passionate about driving it forward.

Tell me a bit about the style of the piece, it started out as a screenplay…

It's a fast-paced, naturalistic style that has these elements of fluidity. You know, I would never suggest it's at the level of a Kaufman or a Gondry, but there's definitely the idea of the space being very fluid; very real situations flowing in and out of a space. It's very malleable, in terms of what's real, what's memory, what's dream. And in a space like Griffin, it's so exciting, there is the possibility to do that in a really visceral way. So that's the idea, we kind of hope that people feel like they're inside the head of this guy, or that they're in this couple's living room.

Sometimes with plays about a topical issue, it can be a bit like a dramatic lecture on stage, it sounds like you've managed to avoid that.

Well, I hope so. We're really conscious of the fact that there is so much information about climate change around, you know. I started writing around seven years ago and part of the reason was seeing An Inconvenient Truth and since then it's just exploded. So now there's the question of why write it, why continue to put it on? I don't think we've dealt with it on a personal, emotional level. You know, all of my friends at the moment are having babies, they just all are! And yet the stuff that I'm being told by these scientists is really quite scary, so it just feels like it's a really pressing issue for our generation particularly. The idea that our children won't be able to enjoy all the things that we were is terrifying.

Between Two Waves plays at the SBW Stables from October 5 to November 17.

Published on October 04, 2012 by Jessica Keath

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