It was a television interview between Andrew Denton and 2005 London bombing survivor Gillian Hicks that planted the seed for the conception of Thursday, Brink Production’s latest play.
“I first became aware of Gillian Hicks’ story in 2008 and I was struck by how this woman had been through this horrific event, yet didn’t harbor any desire for revenge,” Brink Production’s director Chris Drummond says.
“I thought it was an inspiring idea and started wondering what it would be like to be going through your day and then just having something horrific happen to you.”
As director of a company that explores the space between devised and anchored theatre, Drummond recognised Hicks’ experience as one that would be a perfect fit for Brink Productions. So the wheels were set in motion and planning commenced for a production that would be three years in the making.
Thursday may have been inspired by the experiences of Gillian Hicks, however the script isn’t based on her story. Rather, it tells the story of a group of everyday people in the lead-up to, duration of and aftermath of the London attacks. The uplifting performance takes audiences through all the emotions that are taking place, but also leaves them with an idea of hope for the human race.
“We want the audience to wonder if they were walking in her [Gillian’s] shoes, would they respond the way she responded?” Drummond says.
“We also want the audience to reflect upon the fact that there is an optimism about human beings as well.”
The creation of Thursday involved workshops in both Australia and London and a production method that involved starting from a blank canvas. Writers were asked to turn up to workshops without anything prewritten and actors on the floor devised their own on-the-spot responses to ideas that were being generated. The end result is a powerful and evocative performance that is full of raw human emotion.
As the person whose experience was the catalyst for the production, Hicks herself played a role in the development of the play, acting as a valuable sounding board for Drummond and his team.
“In some ways we became quite close,” Drummond says.
“I didn’t know her from a bar of soap before, but over time I talked to her about her experiences. She was always really adept at saying ‘yeah that’s where I’m going’. She was more of a muse than a contributor. She came and spoke to us the morning of setting improvisation tasks.”
When Thursday plays out on the stage of The Playhouse from March 20 to 23, Drummond hopes audiences will be more than just spectators in the crowd – rather they will be drawn into experiencing the emotions played out on stage.
”Because this kind of event is something that television and film does all the time, this is much more poetic and natural and theatrical,” he says.
“I think theatre is very much about experience – you can actually take an audience into a physical experience.’’
Thursday will be at The Playhouse, March 20-23. For more information, visit www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au