Take Five With… Kat Henry | Interview

By – Pepa Wolfe

Take Five With… Kat Henry

Questions of family and loyalty crushed against the palpable spectre of hate crime and social violence; the QTC production of Orphans is currently receiving rave reviews. With an award-winning script by London playwright Dennis Kelly and in the hands of an exhilarating ensemble, this intense thriller is astounding Brisbane audience’s night after night.

At the helm of this visceral piece is director Kat Henry, who recently directed The Ugly One for indie company 23rd productions at Metro Arts. From within the swell of the Orphans experience, the NIDA graduate and Artistic Director of Stella Elektrika shared her thoughts with Life Music Media.

Tell us a bit about Orphans and what drew you to the production.
Orphans is a gripping psychological thriller. It’s punchy, exhilarating and mesmerising and I was immediately attracted to its language and the depth of its characters, and it seduced me right away into a world that seems utterly familiar and yet painfully frightening.

How would you describe Dennis Kelly’s script?
Like getting into your trusty Holden to go down to the shops and realising you are in an Alfa Romeo that has sped you off down the highway. You weren’t necessarily ready, nor did you necessarily want to go where it took you but you are scarily thrilled that you did.

What has been the greatest challenge in approaching such confronting material?
Identifying ourselves in it. It’s so easy to find your way into the lives of the characters and yet the content we are dealing with is terrifying. We were constantly making one another laugh during rehearsals to assert the divide between the characters onstage and ourselves.

Why is this piece so relevant to contemporary Australian audiences?
The play takes a peek at topics such as hatred, racial tension and the psychology of abandonment but really it’s about human relationships. Everyone has had some experience of unhealthy familial relationships and this plays asks you what you would do to secure your most precious bonds.

What do you hope audiences take away from the Orphans experience?
The intensity of a really good story. That comes along rarely so it’s a welcome thing. It pulls no punches and will get you emotionally somewhere but isn’t that the thrill of theatre?

:: What is your favourite play? ::
Seriously? How long do you have?

:: Who is your favourite playwright?::
Mark Ravenhill, Anton Chekhov, Heiner Muller, Sarah Kane, Harold Pinter..
I could go on and on…

:: Name a play that you’d really love to direct ::
Moliere’s Tartuffe

:: What is the most memorable production or performance you have seen?
Something that really inspired you. ::

When I was in Edinburgh performing a few years ago I saw Fuerza Bruta. It translates as Brute Force and while it’s marketed as a kind of theatre-rave, it really just changed my expectations about what is possible for the medium. It was visceral and exciting which is what I’m constantly trying to recreate.

:: Favourite recording artist? ::
Kanye West, Dolly Parton or Florence and the Machine

:: Favourite album? ::
Boys for Pele by Tori Amos. Still, after all these years.

:: Favourite food? ::

:: Favourite drink? ::
Hot chocolate

:: Favourite place? ::

:: Favourite season? ::

:: Recommend a book ::
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

:: Recommend a film ::
The Piano Teacher directed by Michael Haneke or Sweeney Todd directed by Tim Burton

:: Recommend a website ::

:: Words of wisdom ::
Good shoes are the sign of a fine mind.

What’s next for Kat Henry?
Making more Art.

Orphans plays at the Bille Brown Studio until 9 July 2011.

– Pepa Wolfe

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