Prue Clark in rehearsal
Prue Clark with Lisette Drew (Stage Manager) in rehearsal.

Into the Wild

Director Prue Clark revisits her teenage years for her MTC directorial debut.

By Nick Tranter

We speak to director Prue Clark about her upcoming production of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You.

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You, Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer’s whip-smart tale of two audacious teenagers clashing with everyone around them, is the centrepiece of MTC’s 2019 Education program. At its helm is director Prue Clark, who describes the play as an empathetic reflection on teenagehood. ‘It’s for anybody who has ever been a teenager.’

Clark is no stranger to MTC, having already directed play readings for Cybec Electric in 2018, and assistant directed Noël Coward’s Hay Fever the year prior. Clark is also an alumna of MTC’s Women in Theatre program.

At the centre of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You is Connor, a teenage boy at war with the world, whose escalating acts of defiance begin as irreverent pranks. His misdemeanours are frequently hilarious, as he pinballs between authority figures trying to set him straight. ‘It’s fast, spirited and scattergun,’ says Clark as she describes doors slamming, and actors transforming character at lighting speed. Before long, Connor’s behaviour spirals out of control to the point where his parents decide to leave him in a forest to resolve his anger.

Connor’s character is reminiscent of the simultaneously endearing and insufferable Ricky Baker from the smash-hit film Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Incidentally, Clark was once the personal assistant to that film’s acclaimed director, Taika Waititi, while living in New Zealand. She agrees the film’s pace and style are similar to the wild energy and oddball cheek of Kruckemeyer’s play. ‘They’re both offbeat comedies with an urban teen protagonist inept at nature. And they both have great montage sequences!’ Portraying Connor in The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You will be Harry Tseng, whom audiences young and old alike adored as Jeffrey Lu in MTC’s Jasper Jones in 2016. Tseng is joined on stage by fellow cast members Josh Price (An Ideal Husband) and Izabella Yena.

‘I quite liked being a teenager,’ recalls Clark, ‘but when I look back on those years, I definitely don’t want to do them again!’ Clark vividly remembers being put off by media made specifically for teenagers. As someone who wasn’t necessarily surly and hating school, she didn’t relate to the stereotypical depictions of young people. The theatre Clark yearned for is embodied in The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You, which tackles teenage disillusionment head-on and suggests that hope, love and friendship are the way through. Kruckemeyer has won national and international awards for his plays featuring recognisable, complex and fully rendered adolescent characters. We meet Connor in a stereotypical mode of frustration, boredom and anger, but that changes in the forest when he meets an even angrier young woman, Lotte. She has good reason to be mad, railing against a climate of toxic masculinity and fighting just to be heard. Far away from home and school, the pair gain a better understanding of each other and themselves. ‘In the forest, Connor glimpses a future less fraught than what he’s living now.’

In Clark’s conversations with the design team for this production, a key visual reference has been the films of Wes Anderson. ‘He creates striking visual images,’ says Clark, describing the whimsical, cinematic worlds. ‘The first part of this play has a pop-up aesthetic, one that lends itself to similar tableau-style compositions and stylised performance.’ There’s a special surprise in store for audiences as the play shifts into its second act. ‘Finegan provides a beautiful provocation in the script when he says the forest may be real or imagined.’

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You sees Clark reunite with previous design collaborators Romanie Harper (set and costume) and Amelia Lever-Davidson (lighting), whose production of Contest by Emilie Collyer was critically-acclaimed as ‘remarkable’ with ‘buckets of grunt and style’. ‘It’s so exciting to come back into MTC with my crew,’ says Clark, describing the pair as endlessly creative, rigorous thinkers. ‘There’s nothing second-best about the play, just because it has been programmed for a younger audience, and we are approaching it that way too.’ Also joining the design team is composer and sound designer Ian Moorhead.

Amidst Connor’s violent outbursts and Lotte’s sardonic quips, this play is a story of hope. ‘Hope feels pretty pertinent right now,’ says Clark, ‘as we face a future that can seem overwhelming. I believe hope is an important ingredient for activism, it’s a much more useful and propelling force for change than despair and disillusionment.’ This production’s theatrical cleverness and ebullient rhythm will resonate with young change-makers who, like Connor and Lotte, are on the cusp of adulthood. ‘From my experience working with teenagers, they’re completely delightful, and driven to make a change in the world.’ And for those of us who cringe at the memory of our own adolescence, this joyful adventure into the wild will assure you that the kids are alright.

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You plays at Southbank Theatre 3 – 18 May before embarking on a Regional Tour. Thanks to support from the Crown Resorts and Packer Family Foundations, this production will tour to six regional venues across Victoria and Tasmania, giving rural students access to the same high-quality performance and production values as Melbourne audiences.

To learn more about MTC’s award-winning Education program, click here.

Published on 5 April 2019

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