My ninth Sydney Fringe interview is Bokkie Robertson, writer and director of The Other End of The Afternoon, which is playing at New Theatre right now, and closes on October 1st.
We spoke about winning the Silver Gull Play Award, the difference in storytelling styles between film and theatre, and what Bokkie wants to tell teenagers in 2022.
Please note, interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell me about your show.
It’s a high school dramady. It’s got basically all your classic dramedy tropes—It’s got enemies to lovers. It’s got school bullies. It’s got shitty parents.
But it’s also got this running theme of: “Maybe time travel is real?” in a very poetic way. There’s lots of drama, lots of comedy, lots of different genres. There’s a little heist in it. There’s Everytime We Touch by Cascada. It’s fun.
It’s a story. There’s a lot of plays that are character pieces, which I adore, but this is definitely narrative focused. It’s like—beginning, middle end. It’s basically a movie, but on stage.
You won the Silver Gull Play Award in 2021. Tell me about that.
It’s a playwriting competition that’s open to New South Wales playwrights for new unpublished and unproduced plays. It was established in 2015 by Subtlenuance Theatre and New Theatre took it over in 2020.
So, when did you start writing the play?
I started writing it as a project at Ryde Youth Theatre, they have this program called the Underground Program for developing new works. And then Ryde Youth Theatre did a staged reading in October 2020, and used that for workshopping. And then I kept editing it and submitted it to Silver Gull about this time last year.
So, it’s been a while coming, you’ve had some development reading, but this is its debut production?
And do you have any plans to perform it again after Fringe?
I would love to, it depends like what the reception is.
I think it would be amazing to put it on again, maybe somewhere bigger. I think it has very sort of mainstream appeal, in the best possible way.
I’d also be keen to see what like a different director did with it. I’m like, I know that I can do it, but what would someone else do with it?
That’s interesting. As a director, I am really interested in new work and the impact the first director has on a piece of writing can be quite significant. I understand the urge to want to protect your own work and do it yourself, but then another pair of eyes can always be useful.
Exactly. For me, because I wrote it, obviously I see directing it as almost part of the writing process and, and vice versa. By directing it, we fixed so much, like cutting stuff. And so now I’m like, “Okay great, now it’s at the place that I wanted it to be. Now other people can make their mark on it.”
Who is the target audience for this?
There’s a lot of jokes that only make sense to people under 25. There’s a lot that I want to say to teenagers and young people. A lot of it is about bullying which—as soon as someone says their place about bullying, I’m always like, “oh God, that’s disgusting”—but I promise it’s in a fun way.
I was bullied at high school, but then in retrospect at Uni ended up, not like actively bullying people, but there was a lot of things I was unkind about. You see someone as other or different and it becomes okay to laugh at them, which is fucked.
It sucks being bullied, but it’s also really fun bullying people, and in writing the play, I was like “let’s kind of explore that”. There’s a lot I want to say to teenagers about that and tell them: “You are allowed to leave bad situations”. Which is something that I didn’t know as a teenager and took me until the last couple years to realise.
I would love to show it to an audience of teenagers and see how they respond to it. But the audiences so has been a really, really big range of ages. This play is for everyone who’s ever been young.
Why do you think people should come see your show?
Because it’s very good.
In my second year of film school, I had a full season subscription to Belvoir. So, 12 times throughout that year I would do film school during the day and then go to a play in the evening. And it was this incredible education in the differences between the two forms— film and theatre.
I have a lot of opinions about things that film could learn from theatre and things that theatre could learn from film. And one of my opinions is that, oftentimes, the character in theatre is incredible. It is so far and beyond anything you see in film, but the structure and storytelling of theatre can sometimes be lacking.
I’m such a story person I’m such a structured person. If you’re wanting theatre that tells you a story, that takes you on a journey, that has a payoff at the end; come to this play.
That’s very interesting, the film and theatre comparisons, because you’ve got a foot in both worlds. Have you done script writing for film?
Basically no, I’ve made a couple short films, and in my final year I specialised in directing and screenwriting. But most of my writing has been either prose or for stage, randomly.
Would you consider yourself more of a theatremaker or a filmmaker?
At this point theatermaker. It’s mostly because film is so hard to make in that the equipment costs so much money and time and then post-production takes so much time and equipment. Whereas with theatre, basically I’ve done two full length plays in ten months.
So that’s one of the reasons I’ve ended up more in theatre because I’m very ambitious in terms of the size of storytelling. For this one, it’s a full story on a comparatively tiny budget.
But, I would love to do both forever.
Would you consider yourself more a of a writer or a director?
Probably more of a writer. I’ve done more writing than directing, and that’ll probably always be the case.
Do you have anything else coming up after this show, or just a nap?
I’m going to sleep. I’ve definitely got a couple of writing ideas running around. I think there’s a screenplay that I’m thinking about.
It’s always so wanky when people say that, right?
The Other End of The Afternoon is playing now at the New Theatre in Newtown, until the 1st of October. Performances are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets can be bought here.
Interview conducted and edited by Jo Bradley