A chat with Vanessa Bates, writer of The Magic Hour

With The Magic Hour set to transport the audience into a world of twilight stories, werewolves and magic on June 24 at the Civic Theatre, we thought it would be good to chat with the writer of the show, local Vanessa Bates.

The Magic Hour is magical journey through the craft of storytelling. A one woman show described as Little Red Riding Hood meets Trainspotting, it stars Ursula Yovich who plays a cast of sideline female characters who’ve been updated and dropped into the gutters and alleyways of bleak Australian life.

Vanessa, thanks for taking the time to chat to Newcastle Live. When you start working on ideas for a script or a book do you prefer pen and paper or do you work with a computer?

I start with pen and paper but pretty quickly I move to the computer. I try and sit with it on the page though for a while before I make the electronic leap…something about being able to quickly scribble out stuff yet still have it on the page.

What do you think about online sharing culture, and the ability for people to share ‘intellectual property’ like music and books freely via the internet and world wide web?

Gee that’s a big question! The short answer to this is that as an artist I would be wary of my work being made available freely on the internet because of course you have no idea what context your work will be used in, how it will be sampled or distributed etc. And that’s my means of income right there.

In your time mentoring at NIDA has there been any advice you’ve given students that you wish you had been given as a student yourself?

NIDA is just one of the places I have mentored emerging playwrights or taught workshops (heading off to Tamworth right now to teach one as part of The Magic Hour being on at the Capitol Theatre there.) There is a lot of advice I wish I’d been given at the time, things like: Make the most of this opportunity etc but I think a lot of that sort of thing doesn’t really chime with you until you’re a bit older and you say hmmm I wish I’d taken that advice back then!

How connected were you to the process of producing the Magic Hour once you’d finished writing the script?

The final development of the script was with Chris and Ursula so yes I was very connected to seeing it produced. As a playwright you spend a lot of time alone tapping at your computer or scribbling on a bit of paper. It can be hard to see the final image in your head. When other creatives become involved it’s like a bolt of energy hits the place and your words come alive!

Have Ursula and Chris bought something to the script for The Magic Hour that you didn’t expect?

Chris is a great director and Ursula is a great actor so both of them brought an enormous amount to the play and were crucial to the final product. Did I expect it? Of course. A script is really a series of words on a page and while I argue that the play, as written, is the playwrights vision, the actual final vision is the one that ends up on stage, with the creative input of director, actors designer etc before an audience. A lot of artists are involved in that process.
In terms of the script, much of it was written and developed for Ursula. And Chris is also an excellent dramaturge.

Where did the ‘Little Red Riding Hood meets Trainspotting’ description for the show come from, and do you think it’s an accurate description?

I think that’s a publicist line! I can see why they used it though. The play uses the structure of fairytales but has a grittiness to it. A while ago, I did a lot of work around the country with people on the edge of societies, and often I would meet extraordinary and inspiring women – ordinary mothers and grandmothers who worked so hard to keep families together. They were often in the background, and it occurred to me that many of the female characters, the mothers and so on in fairytales are kept in the background too. That’s not to say all our characters in The Magic Hour are saints! By any stretch of the imagination!

The Magic Hour is brought to life by Helpmann Award winner Ursula Yovich who starred in ABC’s Redfern Now. It hits the Civic Theatre on June 24. Contact the venue for tickets and more information via their website

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