INSIDE CRACK – Watch Your Language

An interview with Playwright Louis Klee

By Alex Morris @Nemiwai

“In the Paris Review they always talk about [artists’] process, everyone loves talking about process, but it’s only one side of the whole thing,” said 24-year-old Louis Klee. The philosophy student and playwright from Canberra thinks it’s interesting how some people are obsessed with process when it comes to novels and plays, yet no one asks about it when it comes to an article or an essay.

Articulate and contemplative, Louis makes headlines beyond the titles of his plays. He’s made news in the ACT for leading peaceful protests at the ANU against university sector deregulation and has spoken as a representative for the Fossil Free ANU campaign. He’s a writer and a poet with a lot on his mind.

He’s currently in the throes of his process, which he did talk about during the interview. His work-in-progress play will be debuting at Crack Theatre Festival as part of This is Not Art (TiNA) this year, where it’s Louis’ first time attending. The staged reading will be a one-act play, and Louis said he will likely adapt it to full-length after TiNA. The play, The Ink Trail, addresses the concept of languages going extinct and will be directed by Gowrie Varma from ANU’s student run theatre society.

He workshopped and held a staged reading of The Ink Trail at NIDA in Sydney, where he was enrolled in Playwriting.

“It’s a really new work, we’re not aiming for something polished; when I’m back in Australia we’ll get cracking on rehearsals,” he said, as Louis was in Copenhagen during this interview.

The play’s storyline is based around a homecoming. An artist named Albie returns to Australia after living in Berlin. When he arrives he meets his sister and his dying Aboriginal father. His father happens to be the last speaker of his language. A linguist from Melbourne is thrown into the mix, though Louis said the story is mainly about the brother and sister’s relationship in the wake of their father’s death.

Louis has much to say on the topic of language and the cultural heritage and symbolism behind it. He spoke of how he’s working to bring these themes into his play.

“It encapsulates the history of this country and the world we live in today, where cultures are homogenising which follows the colonial legacy of this country,” Louis said. “I wanted to make this the core of my drama: I feel [when there’s] a death of a language, there’s so much to explore. It raises questions about what is a language; is it a way of communicating or is it a culture and a worldview?”

Louis was influenced by Australia’s colonial history when he wrote the play. He spoke of how Australians now live in a country where there used to be 700 languages and that most Australians today haven’t heard any of them. He said that the languages are distinctly different, like English compared to Russian and the whole loss of a world and culture is not something Australians seem too concerned about.

“It’s the microcosm which when looking through, clearly you can see the macrocosm,” he said. “When you focus on the death of a single language you can see what’s at stake in a colonial country like Australia. Ultimately it comes down to this identity in the post-colonial context”

He said, not only is the concept of language important, but that the dialogue within is also crucial.

“Where the most basic thing about the cinema is the image, for the play the most basic thing is conflict, which comes from the spoken words. There’s moments that are truly electric because no one says anything but it’s the weight of the words that are unsaid.”

He said because scripts evolve, right now he’s working really hard to get The Ink Trail up to a point where it will be presentable.

“The dramatic art at its most basic is a very collaborative one, words need to be said in order for it to be a play; that’s why it’s important to develop a play in order to have it performed,” he said.

He believes a finished work needs a rigorous process of actors and directors working side by side.

“You can have really great ideas on paper but when they’re on stage you realise the words need to be said in a different way,” he said. “That’s why Crack is an awesome opportunity.”

Watch the staged reading of The Ink Trail at The Crack House, Newcastle CBD, on the 2nd or 4th of October at 3:15 PM