“I have an inner teenage girl,” playwright Lachlan Philpott laughingly admits. I’ve asked him how he managed to nail the adolescent lingo in his 2009 Griffin Award-winning play Silent Disco. In it, Tamara and Jasyn (or as he is known, Squid) are in love and with the insouciance of youth show it in funny ways, their conversation peppered with ‘fags’ and ‘slags’, ‘f**king’ and drug taking. In one rap-like, caps-less sequence Tamara sums it up with poetic verve, “we fuck about muck up swallow last crumbs of shit turn phones to silent hide ‘em flick earphones inside collars turn them down real quiet drum beats still there.”
It’s the kind of distinctive language that you can imagine landed Philpott the award, with one of the five judges, Lee Lewis saying he had an incredible, “sureness of the world that he is writing about.” Lewis, who also studied with Philpott at NIDA, will be joining this 2011 incarnation as director, along with Sophie Hennser as the fiery white girl and Meyne Wyatt as Indigenous bad boy.
“While the story is about two teenagers and is a love story it’s certainly not a story just for young audiences,” says Philpott, although he tested the script with schools and this is a co-production with ATYP, where Philpott is Literary Associate and director of the FRESH INK emerging writer program. He loves teaching, thriving on the exchange and watching people grow. “It’s seeing people connecting to their own voice,” he says.
“But, it’s a Sydney story as well,” continues Philpott, an inner-west local. “There are so many good stories in Sydney – this is about living in the inner city. Its disparity, the gentrification and the disconnection.”
And so back to the title, which was inspired by real live silent disco (where participants dance to music on wireless headphones) Philpott witnessed in the Netherlands. “I was watching a young couple dancing, and then they had a fight. So it’s literal, but it’s also metaphorical. It’s about a generation of young people who are obsessively listening to iPods and their involvement in technology … what are they blocking out?”
The inspiration comes full circle for this world premiere staging which will incorporate a silent disco at inner-city club Goodgod on May 18. “And the guy who invented the silent disco just recently moved to Sydney,” Philpott tells me. What’s more, the inventor came up with the idea after putting on a show in a theatre festival, and wanting to celebrate afterwards but not wanting to upset the neighbours. “I love the fact that it links back to theatre in that way … I hope he comes!”
And so, all the human connections line up – almost as if Philpott had scripted it himself.
Apr 22-Jun 4, Griffin SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross, $15-47, 8019 0292, griffintheatre.com.au