Madelaine Nunn's play Kinder Surprise is a competitive comedy about a middle-aged mum and her 21-year-old daughter discovering they are pregnant at the same time. A nine-month duel ensues. Nunn tells us what drives her playwriting and what she's looking forward to in this year's Cybec Electric play readings.
What made you start writing for the stage?
After graduating VCA as an actor, I knew (I had been told) the road ahead of me was tough. ‘There are no roles … Only three of you will still be working in 10 years…’ You know the drill. So I thought: I better diversify! In 2016 I submitted some writing samples to the Fresh Ink program run by Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP). I was selected, and from there I kept writing and applying for development opportunities and the rest is history.
I also started a Theatre Company with Candace Miles and Anna Rodway called Three Birds Theatre, where we write, produce, perform and tour our own original works.
When did your relationship with MTC begin?
This is my first time writing for MTC – I guess you could say we’re dating! I first began looking at MTC from across the room when I moved to Melbourne to study acting and theatre-making at the VCA in 2013.
Can you tell us more about your Cybec Electric play?
Kinder Surprise centres on a mother-daughter relationship and the process we navigate when children become adults and parents turn back into people. It’s about a generation gap, overcoming family judgements and how the love between a mother and daughter is so intense it could make the world explode.
Why this play and why now?
Mums are very special people. I don’t think enough credit is given to them. Kinder Surprise is a close character study that asks: how do we treat our mums? How do we treat our daughters? Why do we treat the people that we love the most the worst? By following these characters through a period of immense change, Kinder Surprise hopes to bring themes of motherhood, the role of women and the expectation of a career to the forefront of the conversation.
‘Writing can be such a solitary experience; you can sometimes accidentally short-circuit yourself without other creatives to bounce ideas off and play with the work. It’s invaluable to have a supportive community around you knowing everyone is giving it a go. I’m always motivated and inspired by the amazing work of others!’
Julián Fuentes Reta, an award-winning Spanish director and personal colleague, once said ‘Political theatre is about hitting the audience in the heart just as much as the head.’ Kinder Surprise is political; now give your mum a hug.
What is unique about your writing process? Where do you write and why?
I think everyone’s process is unique. I’m often driven by relationships and interesting premises and then pushing those premises and those relationships to the edge.
I like to move between writing at home and writing in a public space. I like writing at home because I can spread out, but I often get distracted by the kettle. I like writing in a public space like a library because I am limited to the task at hand.
How do you know when an idea should turn into a play?
I ask questions: Does it have heart? Do I really care? Can I see it? And then when I can see it, what funny or strong images and moments come to mind? I also have a test audience of friends and family that I pitch ideas to, and from their facial expressions and pre-verbal sounds I judge their interest.
What’s the best advice someone in the industry has given you?
It’s already such an effort to get people dressed, out of the house, on public transport and into the theatre so give them a gift. Everything we do is a gift.
How important is your writing community?
Writing can be such a solitary experience; you can sometimes accidentally short-circuit yourself without other creatives to bounce ideas off and play with the work. It’s invaluable to have a supportive community around you knowing everyone is giving it a go. I’m always motivated and inspired by the amazing work of others!
What excites you most about your participation in Cybec Electric 2020?
Cybec Electric 2020 is an invaluable opportunity to dedicate time to play with the work and stretch it as far as it will go in a supportive and creative space. Development opportunities are invaluable, as is a platform to share new work with an audience and to receive immediate feedback. I’m excited to connect with the MTC community as I hope to continue writing and working with MTC in the future… one day on the main stage!
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