It’s taken me 12 months, but I’m back. Back to the blog. Along the way, there’s been a couple of milestones: this incredible show that I got to be a part of The Peasant Prince, travelled to 38 venues across the country. Australia, that is. It was the most I’d seen of this country that I can now unreservedly call mine. It took me a long time, and almost a decade of travelling around the world looking for an alternate one, but now – today – it’s nice to have a sense of belongingness. Taking a travelling show, and peddling a story to the most far-flung and remote corners of the land, and to be in turn welcomed and applauded can have that effect.
It’s a relief because I’d been away from the stage for a long time. I honestly didn’t know if I’d have it in me. I thought the director slightly mad (but kind) to have taken me on. The first 3 weeks of rehearsals I was petrified of being called out for the fraud I felt I was. Each character transformation felt false – an affectation of gesture and voice posturing as a human. But repetition by repetition, run by run, show by show – these different people spun out of Li Cunxin’s story and my imagination began to move in. That’s what acting – and all art- comes down to eventually…when knowledge and inspiration seeps under the skin and you begin to move as one.
So, I don’t think it was a coincidence that the experience had a profound effect on my writing as well. For four years, I had been squeezing my manuscript into weekends and the brief, early morning hours before rushing to work. Progress was incrementally made in that I was getting through the word count. But dramatically changing my routine, embodying story again, giving to audiences and those long, quiet stretches in motel rooms in the middle of nowhere really jolted my muse awake. Liberated from the need to play it strong for my job, for my partner, for society at large, I summoned the courage to cry. I hadn’t realised how far at arm’s length I’d kept my pain until that point. Or perhaps it took that long for it to rise to the surface, and it required the mental space to bubble up and find a release, knowing that my fingertips would be ready at the keyboard to start tapping away. It was a lucky thing that happened to me, that show. It connected me back to myself and pushed me to be brave and produced ripple effects opening me up to my own story, the story that I really wanted to tell.
I ended up leaving the job I was supposed to return to after The Peasant Prince finished. And just before the end of 2016, I handed in the third and final draft of The Good Girl of Chinatown. 85,000 words, painstakingly recalibrated over 5 months of being on the road. The first two drafts had barely hit 70,000 and had taken me four years to produce. I guess that’s the kind of person I am. I thrive best when I feel free. Some people name this as a ‘running away.’ That’s not wrong. But sometimes embracing speed is the only way of finding something that’s gotten lost.
The Peasant Prince scooped up two Glug Awards and a Sydney Theatre Award, and The Good Girl of Chinatown comes out May 1st.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing in life when things fall into place at the exact right time and you get what you didn’t know you were asking for.