Tuesday 22 May 2012

The Lost Child of Gen X: Interview by Elissa Blake, SMH

The Lost Child of Gen X
By Elissa Blake, 20 May, 2012

Melita Rowston's Crushed explores a dark crime in the apparent safety of the '80s.

Playwright Melita Rowston recalls her teen years being filled with the sounds of hair-metal bands - Guns N' Roses, Poison, Motley Crue and Skid Row. Growing up in the 1980s in a beachside Melbourne suburb, she also remembers being haunted by the story of a little girl who was stolen from bed one night. It's a memory that has proven hard to shake off.
The crime made headlines and terrified her neighbourhood. ''Mum would say, 'Keep your bedroom window closed! You don't want to get taken!''' Rowston says. ''I was scared. It affected everyone.

''Our suburb had a lot of bushland and we'd be walking to school or the shops on our own as kids. The idea of 'stranger danger' was new then, so we were just becoming aware of dangers lurking in bushes.''

Photo by Dave Quinn
Vast past ... Melita Rowston describes Crushed as a "high school reunion from hell".
Inspired by that incident, Rowston has written Crushed, a fast-paced, darkly comic story about old friends who are connected by the summer night in 1988 when a not-so-sweet 16-year-old girl disappeared.
Twenty years later, the T-shirt the girl was wearing has been unearthed - covered in bloodstains - and as the police comb the ground for more evidence, the surviving friends are forced to confront memories of their adolescence they thought were long buried.

Directed by Lucinda Gleeson, the production features actors Lucy Miller, Sean Barker and Jeremy Waters. Rowston describes it as a ''high school reunion from hell'' filled with music from her teen years.

''This is a play written for Gen X,'' she says. ''We were children in the 1970s, raised with parenting ideas about colour and creativity and thinking differently and changing the world. We were told we could do anything and that we had so much choice. There was a lot of excitement but there was also a lot of pressure on us.''

But then the recession hit and the hopes of Gen X were stunted. The term ''quarter-life crisis'' was coined for a generation of those in their 20s whose hopes seemed to hit a brick wall.

''I like the metaphor that this generation is somehow lost, like the 'lost child' in Australian mythology,'' she says.
A NIDA-trained theatre director, Rowston turned to writing after working at Griffin Theatre, the launch pad for many new Australian plays. Crushed is her fifth full-length play and her first for New Theatre's Spare Room program, which is dedicated to new Australian work.

''The Spare Room is really supporting new Australian playwrights, and particularly female playwrights and directors, which is so important at the moment,'' she says.

''There are a lot of blocks and barriers for women in the industry. I'm really enjoying working with like-minded artists who make it all happen somehow.''

Rowston's next play, The Wonder from Downunder, is about giant earthworms.
''It will be a very strange one-woman show with holiday slides,'' she says.
''There are these huge earthworms found only in Gippsland. They became a phenomenon in the '80s, with Daryl Somers getting involved, and this guy creating a huge pink worm puppet that travelled the world. It's a great story.''

Crushed plays at the New Theatre until June 9. Tickets $10-$30. Bookings 1300 131 188.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/the-lost-child-of-gen-x-20120519-1ywvm.html

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