Alistair Baldwin's play Celebrity Skin is an unethical comedy about a young man, feted among medical professionals for his remarkable disabilities, who is sleeping with his childhood doctor.
What made you start writing for the stage?
I'd been screenwriting and performing stand-up comedy for years, but my first foray into playwriting began when I was selected for MTC's fantastic First Stage program, run through the Emerging Writers Festival. The whole ethos is about giving people the space to write their first play. I was selected amongst a fantastic cohort that included Laila Thaker, Margot Morales Tanjutco and Brooke Murray. Working alongside them, MTC's Literary Associate Jenni Medway, director Bridget Balodis and a crew of fantastic actors, I got addicted to the freedoms, constrictions and collaborative energy of theatre.
What are you writing for Cybec Electric?
The play I've written for Cybec Electric is called Celebrity Skin. It's a sexy comedy about a patient with a rare disease hooking up with the doctor specialising in it after a medical conference.
‘I'm interested in exploring attention, specifically the psychology of people (myself included) who were born with rare medical conditions and therefore given tonnes of it.’
Why this play and why now?
I'm interested in exploring attention, specifically the psychology of people (myself included) who were born with rare medical conditions and therefore given tonnes of it. It's almost like being a child star, being told every day that you're fascinating, one in a million. It breeds its own kind of narcissism, and ripples out in all these ways as an adult – particularly sexually. There's a thin line between having a hot body, and having an interesting body. Either way, people are staring.
What is unique about your writing process? Where do you write and why?
I don’t know if there's too much that’s terribly unique about my writing process. It’s the usual combo of coffee, procrastination and last minute bursts of productivity. I try to mix it up with where I write – going to cafes or libraries or a friend’s house – so I'm not too tempted to take a stress nap after writing one sentence, which is often the case when I’m writing at home. I am a big proponent of Google Docs: when I'm out and about and come up with a joke, or line of dialogue, I'll pop it into an empty document on my phone and sift through it when I try to write later.
How do you know when an idea should turn into a play?
I know an idea should turn into a play when it’s touching on topics that I don’t have a firm opinion one way or the other about. When I’m confused about what I actually think about something, it’s exciting to divide my murky thoughts into an assembly of characters who can hash it out with each other. If I feel a continual sense of exploration when writing up an idea, I know I’m on the right track.
What’s the best advice someone in the industry has given you?
Have a back-up plan. Mine’s marketing.
Can you tell us something interesting, odd or unusual about your career to date?
Perhaps the oddest footnote in my career was working on The Lizard is Present: A Gala in Honour of Marina Abramolizardvic. Collaborating with Vidya Rajan, Xanthea O’Connor and a team of talented creatives, we put on this immersive gala at Melbourne Fringe for a lizard who happens to be this generation’s foremost performance artist. I even wrote a review of her work for un Magazine in the lead up to the gala to get the word out – it really was the most multidisciplinary project I’ve ever been blessed to be involved with. And Marina bit me, which I’m told is an honour.
How important is your writing community?
So important! Whether it’s TV, theatre or comedy, collaboration is so vital to everything I do! I think if you spend too long with an idea living in your head, you lose perspective. I’m blessed to be surrounded by many amazing friends who will tell me when something is terrible – even if I end up writing it anyway!
What excites you the most about your participation in Cybec Electric 2020?
I’m so excited about this opportunity because I just know I’ll get to work alongside a bunch of other great writers and theatre practitioners! I’m still so new to the industry, so hopefully I’ll soak up all their wisdom by osmosis!
Cybec Electric play readings run from 27 to 29 February 2020 at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler.
Cybec Electric forms part of MTC’s ongoing commitment to the development of new Australian writing, and is only possible due to the support of the late Dr Roger Riordan AM and The Cybec Foundation.
Published on 24 February 2020