One little thing can go wrong
The rough and tumble of homelessness is at the heart of a new play to be staged at La Mama in March.
Actor and playwright Sally McKenzie has taken the plight of women over 55 to heart.
She’s a woman over 55 herself and is, perhaps, asking the “what if” question.
What if things had gone wrong in her own life? She’d studied acting alongside Mel Gibson at NIDA from 1975 to 1977.
“Acting is precarious and I’ve never considered I’d be homeless. However, that is a recurring theme during the play,” Ms McKenzie said.
The women in the play never thought they’d be homeless, but one thing led to another.
Her one-woman show Way explores the issues through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker who’s trying to get funding from the national broadcaster.
She uses the doco-maker to meet and share the experiences of the women she is filming; Julie who lives on the streets, Maysie who sleeps in her car, Lily of no fixed address, and Zahra who resides in a women’s refuge.
It’s not easy to get investment because “the subject isn’t sexy though and even worse the film has an ‘arty’ treatment.”
Ms McKenzie said there had been a documentary on the ABC about the topic but it was bought as a finished product.
She became interested in writing a show after playing a homeless woman living in a car for an advertisement.
“I became interested initially because as an actor I gave my time to an organisation called Orange Laundry,” she said. “They provide mobile units of washing machines and dryers for homeless people to do their laundry.”
Way promises to be a brave account as Ms McKenzie throws herself into the part of Lynne, the doco-maker.
She was a documentary maker herself. The Acting Class of 1977 documents her time at NIDA and includes Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, Steve Bisley and Debra Lawrance.
“There were only 15 of us. Three very intense years,” she said. Her doco was screened on the ABC “but they didn’t invest, they bought it as an acquisition.”
Lynne wants to get up-front funding because in the tradition of truth-seekers, she “is determined to expose the reality that this is the fastest growing demographic of homeless people in Australia.”
“Lynne is not making pity porn, she doesn’t want to manipulate the audience, she wants to agitate towards awareness and change.”
Way, La Mama Courthouse, March 22 – April 2. •
Caption: Sally McKenzie: after a rehearsal for a play on homelessness.