Patricia: Beaten by it.
Emily: Yes, dejected, wondering what’s the point in trying?
Patricia: The independent sector, which has been heavily hammered by the government and having the reduction from the Australia Council, that funding is even more devastating for young people. But I would say, just get the work on. And start small. Don’t get caught up in the ruse of being told that your play just needs development, and more development and more and more dramaturgy. Actually, what your play needs as a young person and fledgling artist – it needs to be on. Don’t think it’s going to be on at the MTC or the STC, put it on wherever you can put it out, and make it alive.
Emily: See how audiences respond.
Patricia: Yeah and it’s not a great recommendation, but it’s the only one. Because there’s very little money available and very little concern – there are only a certain number of wunderkinds, even if they’re male. I think it’s about not getting stuck.
Emily: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew you wanted to be a playwright?
Patricia: Originally I wanted to be an actor, I was an actor for a long time. There’s a spate of playwrights who were actors. And it is sort of interesting because we would say that we do write for actors, I love actors. I love having them having enough to do. I hate the fucking misuse of actors when they come in for five seconds, so I like them to have something interesting to do. You don’t have to have all the language, but their presence is complicated and there’s a complex journey in it.
Emily: And I think actors are so thankful when a writer looks after them like that!
Patricia: Yes it’s so terribly boring otherwise. I never got over being terrified as an actor though, my anxiety was huge. Also I didn’t put myself into the market in that way. I was always involved with independent theatre and experimental work and loved that, so it felt really natural to start to write for it. But it took a long time to name myself as a playwright – some people call themselves playwrights when they’ve done so little, and yet can claim it so quickly. I took years – I would say that I’m an actor who writes a bit. I felt like I had to win my stripes or something. But this is a part of misogyny – I couldn’t claim my stripes earlier because I always felt not good enough. Some of the plays I wrote early on weren’t good enough, and now I look back and wish I could ditch them! (Laughs)
Emily: It’s all a part of the process.
Emily: And through that process was there any person, or thing, or work that inspired you to keep going?
Patricia: I saw a show in Sydney as a young woman, and I went along to some obscure place, not a traditional theatre space, and it was Lindsay Kemp’s Flowers, based on Jean Genet’s book. Lindsay Kemp started this very queer company that toured here. It was a most magnificent play. It was about creating a world that you never see in mainstream theatre. I like those worlds. I like that world that was so exotic, and erotic, and that was truly magical. And I thought, this is where I want to go – not the clean mainstream traditional telling, not that I haven’t been elated by some experiences there. But that was the attraction. And consequently, I’m really poor.
Emily: And how do you find that life, spending a significant time of your career without a lot of financial return?
Patricia: I never really gave a shit about money. Because I had a child on my own there were times when I was really panicky about paying bills, but in the end I had amazing freedom as a parent, especially a single parent, because I didn’t have a lifestyle that demanded a certain schedule. That is so hard organising childcare and the expense of it now. It’s a kind of great life, but not a lucrative one. And I am lucky that I have lasted to this point. It’s not without anxieties – even with opening nights! But it’s been fine.