Daring you to look into the future, and set to premiere in Sydney this weekend, Darkness is a tantalizing collaboration between artists Andrew Bovell, Zoey Dawson, Dino Dimitriadis, Dan Gioannoni and Megan Wilding. Enticingly, the number of collaborators involved is in keeping with its genesis – a meeting of a group of 5 artists in Geneva, Switzerland, in the Summer of 1816 where the party was forced indoors because if inclement weather, and ghost stories were written read, and a young woman named Mary Shelley was inspired to write one of the most memorable horror stories of all time – Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
Writer Megan Wilding finds similarities with the actual event of 1816 and the dark days of COVID. “Having gone through a massive shift in the world with lockdowns and COVID restrictions it wasn’t too hard to imagine ourselves in that time,” she says. “This moment in 1816 with a bunch of young romantics and big players of literature all being in the same place at the same time geeks me out. As an artist in an ever changing world, I found solace in this meeting of creatives, that even though it may feel like the world is ending we should always find a place to gather and laugh and challenge each other. Every person that has been apart of this process has such a brilliant artistry in their own right and just like that weekend, I think we’ve been able to educate, inspire, and create something kind of wonderful.”
For Wilding it was such an exciting process getting to collaborate with completely different voices and points of view that it didn’t feel like any one was pushing things forward, the idea had a natural momentum which they all chased.
As far as research goes, Wilding explains that so much literature was consumed to understand the essence of these 5 artists. “I mean most artists without even knowing it put there own politics into the art they create, we respond to the world around us,” she says. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is such a political piece of literature, not only as a female writer but because of the massive concepts that she presents, Shelley challenges life and god, and lets us ask these huge questions of ourselves. Who is god? Are we god? The gothic genre is such an exciting world to explore and has no limits, and I think we all found that as something that we could latch ourselves onto.”
The great thing about this process, For Wilding, is just how huge their ideas were allowed to be to find the right one. “Naturally certain writers were drawn to different characters and moments, so there wasn’t any fighting over who got to do what,” she explains. “It’s such a cool thing when your voice finds another voice and you’re all speaking the same language. We did a lot of zoom writers room’s as a lot of us are based in different states, so of course that was always going to be a challenge, but those moments when we were able to chat were always so fun.”
Much like Shelley’s masterpiece, Darkness explores themes of savage nature, hunger for connection, life, death and the desire to be reborn and renewed. “think there are themes of existentialism, rebellion, love, joy, and darkness,” says Wilding. “I think as writers we are asking the question of “once we embrace the darkness, how do we find the light again?”. It is my hope that each audience member will have their own unique answer to this question because I don’t necessarily think any answer is wrong or right. I just want us to start talking about it together.”
Described as a non traditional theatre experience (simply The Experience), Darkness transports audiences into overlapping worlds of mystery, transformation, fantasy and wonder. “I think the whole experience is going to have such a vibe to it,” says Wilding. “I love the word vibe because it could mean so many things for everyone. I think the best way I could describe this show is it’s going to transport audience’s into a different place for a moment, somewhere familiar but also unknown, and I think they’ll forgot that Sydney is just outside the door.”
This work has been a year and a half in the making with the team starting with this time capsule moment of 1816 and went which lead down so many possible avenues. “At one point I think I was trying to convince everyone that robots had a place in this world, I’m very glad that it was politely shut down,” says Wilding. ” Another main challenge was creating a new world completely from scratch and seeing it all the same way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, creating universal rules that we could then break. Putting together 3 different brains is a messy and beautiful experiment and I think it’s really paid off in this work.”
For Wilding, the most fun part has been creating something kind of gothic and not just a kitchen sink drama. She loves that the building (The Library in Newtown) and the show compliment each other. She also embraces how she’s been able to write big questions and throw them out into the darkness. “This work has challenged me as a writer and artist and I hope that audiences will be moved by the whole experience,” says Wilding.
Wilding, a proud Gamilaroi woman, has established a reputation as a prolifically talented actor, writer, and director. Since graduating from WAAPA, Wilding has appeared in leading roles in Banging Denmark and Blackie Blackie Brown for the Sydney Theatre Company, and The Rover for Belvoir St Theatre, and written plays such as the autobiographical A Little Piece of Ash and GAME. SET. MATCH. for which she won the 2021 Griffin Award for Australian playwriting.
As a writer Wilding loves stories with a big heart. “I love listening to everything that is said in the silences between dialogue,” she says. “My characters that I always tend to gravitate towards are those that are peeling back the layers to get to their truth. I love characters that challenge the world around them. I love creating spaces where an audience can come and collectively emote and release with each other. I try and create art that gets into the depths of the universal questions that we all ask ourselves but mostly I want to always create work that will open up conversations between us after the show is done.”
Darkness comes alive with potent and entertaining stories as the cohorts trade brilliant tales, conjure spirits and look to the past to contemplate the future. It is a colliding landscape of rich imagery, startling transformation, flashbacks and forebodings.
Says Wilding, “Get a ticket and be the friend that recommends the coolest thing happening in Sydney first.”
January 14 – February 19