Ahead of the launch of his latest play Between Solar Systems, we caught up with writer and director Scott McArdle to find out a little bit more about the new play from his company Second Chance Theatre; and we couldn’t resist asking Scott for his favourite Science Fiction films or shows whilst we were at it.
What was the initial inspiration behind Between Solar Systems?
At the start of the year, I moved to Sydney very briefly to start at writing course at NIDA. Many things started to spiral and I was in a really bad space, away from my family and friends.
Pushed to write something new, I emerged with this idea of a man who’s never seen another person, never touched another person, and is our last hope. But he’s never known his people, his culture, so is that even really hope? Is he like us? Can we like him?
How did you approach the writing process on Between Solar Systems?
I started daydreaming in Sydney for a week, wandering around in this really awful headspace, feeling detached from this city. When I decided to come home, that was when it started. On the red eye back to Perth I busted out half the script with a guy snoring in my ear. After that I just kept re-writing scenes and laying out the groundwork of what was to come, crossroads that I could take. Then Finegan came into the picture and really helped me focus what I was doing, question my world.
What was it about the science-fiction genre that appealed to you for this work?
I’ve always wanted to write in such a distinct genre like horror or sci-fi. I grew up watching sci-fi with my siblings and it’s really where my heart is. However, as you can tell from above, the story just had to be set in space. Away and distant from all we know. Dangerous yet with a glint of hope on the horizon.
You’ve written ten, and directed nine shows for Second Chance Theatre, how do you feel your style/method has changed or developed over time? Have you found yourself approaching this work differently to your previous pieces?
Oh man, that’s not even counting the performance art piece we did and the remounts/tours! I think we actually come in at around 15 now.
I spent most of university experimenting and changing the style I was writing in to try and find my style. Though looking back my dialogue has always tried to be as natural and conversational as possible.
Last year I wrote three distinct pieces: a very emotional pretty piece, a dark twisted horror, and a superhero musical. But across all three I really tried to work organically with the actors, to get along well, and to never lose my patience. I make it a point to never yell in the rehearsal room. Everyone is giving their time to help you so never mistreat them.
I felt really lucky with Between Solar Systems because I was working with three of my favourite actors which was an utter privilege. We spent the first part of rehearsals just chatting and throwing ideas around, we kept it really open in the rehearsal room.
You worked with Finegan Kruckemeyer on the script for Between Solar Systems; how did you enjoy the process of working with him?
Fin is probably my favourite human. It was a dream to talk to him let alone work with him and have him tell me that he liked my writing and that I was doing the right thing. He’s so kind and supportive but he knows when to say something isn’t working or offer an alternative. We really polished the script and sent it back-and-forth for a few weeks.
What are your top 3 science fiction films or television shows? Why? (tough I know)
Okay here we go!
Gattaca: I have a really fond memory of watching this with my dad in my early teens and suddenly going, “Jesus! This is literature, this is true modern science fiction literature!” I listen to Michael Nyman’s score constantly and it’s a really tipping point between my friends and I. If you like Gattaca, I will probably fight a bear for you or something.
Stargate: All three series (SG1, Atlantis, and Universe). It was the first series I ever binged and there are so many small scenes I reuse in my writing or draw inspiration from. Between Solar Systems owes a lot to the finale of SG1.
Blade Runner: It was this or Star Wars but I went with Blade Runner simply because Rutger Hauer’s final monologue is an amazing theatrical feat. I’d love love love to do Blade Runner on stage one day. The themes of identity and duplicity are mind-breaking!
How was the rehearsal process for Between Solar Systems? What was it like working with Nick, Jo, and Emily?
I’ve worked with Em for two years straight now, this is our sixth play together, and even now working with her is still surprising and fresh. She has an unending library of theatrical tricks she keeps playing on me!
I’d admired Nick and Jo from afar for years so I sent them both messages inviting them to work on the project and to my luck they accepted.
The process was more fun and inspiring than I’d thought possible. We really enjoyed rehearsals every week and part of that was due to the script and schedule being set so we always knew what we were going to do.
I plan to work with all three again soon!
Heading into opening night, what has the reception been like for the show so far?
I just got in from the Member’s Night and had a lovely member come up to me and say that it was the best night she’s ever had there which was so beautiful of her to say! With the ending people have been a bit numb at the end but so far we’re just hearing really supportive, generous comments which has been comforting.
We all worked really hard to make the show shine for our audiences.
What’s next for yourself and Second Chance Theatre?
I’m taking a bit of an extended writing break next but I’m about to finish an adaption of Frankenstein that I’ll be directing at Murdoch Uni next June.
I haven’t directed a published text since Macbeth in 2011 (before SCT) so I’m absolutely thrilled to be tackling Mary Shelley’s classic, incidentally the first sci-fi in history and my favourite book. That’ll be a big project and very different to this.
Between Solar Systems opened last night at The Blue Room Theatre, Perth and runs until the 26th September. For more information and ticketing visit: http://blueroom.org.au/events/between-solar-systems/