From penning fantastical plays, “crazy with unicorns,” (2010’s Fugitive) and shapeshifters disguised as David Bowie (Harbinger), Matthew Whittet has leapt feet-first into a whole new inkwell of lunacy: fatherhood.
“I wanted to try tapping into something personal, to connect very strongly with people,” says the winner of the 2010 Phillip Parsons Young Playwright Award, an award that encourages its participants to pursue something they are passionate in. Its alumni to date is star-studded with talent like Brendan Cowell (Ruben Guthrie), Tommy Murphy (Gwen in Purgatory) and Kate Mulvany (The Seed).
Whittet, who is father to a five-year-old, turned to one of life’s great hurdles.
“I had to start to understand what it meant to be a dad. You wake up and you have a whole new definition on your life – how you behave. You end up strangely copying your parents. I never thought I’d do that! I never thought those words would be coming out my mouth! I wanted to go into that territory.”
The play, directed by Anthea Williams, stars Leon Ford (“Who is also a Dad, which wasn’t a pre-req but a bonus!” laughs Whittet) as Daniel, a man who wakes up to find his whole life erased; wife, family, phone numbers. In the 24 hours that follow, through monologues and mind’s eye views, Old Man attempts to piece all the bits of the puzzle back together, first from the perspective of the son or child with an absent father figure, and then from the father himself.
“I guess it is absolutely about becoming an old man, that loss of childhood … about coming to grips with the changing roles in your life – not necessarily societal things, but when people start to rely on you and what that means.”
Jun 7-Jul 1, Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, $32-42, 9699 3444, belvoir.com.au