“Phantoms… do not come unbidden into our lives; we invite them, over and over.” The New York Times
Jane Phegan sat down to talk about her role as Gail in the new Australian production of Adam Brock’s acclaimed Before the Meeting, which plays at the Seymour Centre from Wednesday 25th May to Saturday 11th June 2022.
Every day, Gail and the regular members of her early morning group set up for their meeting in the exact same way: Nicole makes the coffee, Gail arranges the chairs, and Ron complains.
As they forge a path toward sobriety and wellbeing, they come to rely on the routine and each other. But when Gail’s estranged granddaughter reopens old wounds, Gail knows it will take more than coffee, chairs, and companionship to keep her life from falling apart.
Since graduating from Theatre Nepean in 2005, Jane Pegan has been working on stage. The day after graduation she began a 10-year journey as Company Artist with Version 1.0. In addition to devising and performing in all of its major works during this period, she was also performing in mainstream theatre productions.
Since the closure of Version 1.0 in 2014, Jane worked with Rinkogun Theatre Company in Tokyo, and toured Ilbijerri’s “Beautiful One Day” from Southbank to London (2014). Meanwhile she continued to work non-stop in Sydney, proving to be an incredible veteran actress for Siren Theatre Co in “The Trouble with Harry” (2012 & 2017), “Good with Maps (2017), “The Ham Funeral” (2017) and “As You Like It” (2011), to name a few.
Jane has appeared in several short films, such as “How the Light Gets In” (2016) and “Butterfly Factor” (2004). She won Best Actress at Sydney Indie Film Festival in 2015 for “Entailment”. She had a small role in the award-winning Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic’s feature “For Those Who Can Tell No Tales”. This premiered at TIFF in 2013 and screened at festivals around the world before coming to SFF in 2014.
Jane seeks work that is challenging and interesting, in turn encouraging people to engage and be proactive within the wider community.
Can you tell us a bit about what drew you to Before the Meeting?
It’s an incredibly beautiful piece about community and how we find our way through life together. It’s a wonderful challenging piece for an actor, because it’s one of those seemingly quiet plays where on the surface not much happens, and everything underneath the play focuses on the relationships between these characters and what’s going on between them and their own struggles. Particularly how they connect through that.
It’s also set in Philadelphia so there is the wonderful exploration of that otherness that is slightly different from doing an Australian play.
You play the protagonist Gail in the production; can you tell us about her?
She’s a slightly different character to what I usually get offered. The character that I’m playing is quite direct and stern and seemingly sure of herself and that’s a great challenge to play. She’s the sort of driving force of the play, she’s certainly the matriarch of the piece and like I said she’s seemingly sure of herself but beneath the surface she is completely unsure. Being the matriarch she’s the organiser of the meetings, or at least she sees herself in charge anyway. She’s very much the person that’s going to keep everything very much under control.
She definitely sounds very layered, and the piece as a whole feels grounded. Is there something more captivating to you as a performer about grounded storytelling as opposed to the surreal?
BOTH! Anything! I love all different types, but there’s something very interesting about playing a character who wants to be, or at least wants to appear to be very grounded but is actually in fact barely holding it all together. There’s a lot to pick apart. If you just tap the surface slightly there’s a fragility there that fools them. But at face value they’re a kind of steam train moving through the landscape.
So, this is a new play by U.S playwright Adam Brock, what’s it like working on a new piece of writing and theatre?
It’s wonderful to work on a new piece and because Adam’s not here, he’s a Canadian born U.S playwright, and he’s not making adjustments to the script as we go, we have a wonderful script that you can see has been adjusted for its first outing which was at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In that way, it’s not so much like a new work that you would have the playwright here making modifications as you go, which is very common and something that I’m used to and also love. But the newness of the piece is exciting to bring something from somewhere else to here and place that in the theatre for an Australian audience, without being modified as we go – which is slightly a relief!
What do you think audiences will resonate with in this production?
It’s a really delicate, beautiful, funny and hopefully sad piece that’s really so much about these relationships and about how we rely on each other so much for our happiness. It’s gritty and joyous and messy, but we really need each other to make the most of that. What I think audiences will come away with is a feeling of that necessity of each other, of that finding your community or your people, and it’s incredibly important for you to thrive. And that life is hard you know? We’re all capable of hope and resilience and change but without the people who you feel supported by, without family – whatever that means to you, whatever you create around you as your family – is really important for you to survive.
Before the Meeting plays at the Seymour Centre 25th May to 11th June 2022. Tickets can be booked at the Seymour Centre website or by following the link here.
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