Playwave Creative

INTERVIEW FEATURE: Never Closer

Never Closer
Interview and Feature by Jemima Sirtes

“If you are in a point of crisis, do you stay and try to be a part of the solution? Or do you leave and try to find some happiness elsewhere?” 

In my interview with Director Hannah Goodwin, these words are what stuck with me the most. I set up a zoom to speak with her about Never Closer, the show currently playing in Belvoir’s upstairs theatre, which Hannah is directing. I had heard talks in passing about Grace Chapple’s play, its background set against ‘The Troubles’ and its nuance between comedy and drama, but I’m not here to review a play I’ve never seen. Due to it being selected in 2022 for Belvoir’s downstairs indie program 25a, audiences have seen Never Closer before, and Hannah assures me that while the play has the exact same cast and almost identical list of creatives, the move upstairs has done nothing but good for these Northern Irish friends. 

Northern Ireland, 1987. Deirdre is stuck – between arguments, nations, and the lives she almost lived. But when her old school friends gather in her kitchen yet again for Christmas Eve, their growing differences push to the surface a powder-keg, waiting the tiniest spark. And then one of them turns up with her surprise fiancé. He’s English.

But that’s just what the program says. I’ve been told it’s about love. About friendship. About making something that matters. A hope for meaning. 

“It reaches for the universal through the specific”, as Director Goodwin so eloquently put. 

It’s excellent to see a team of young and passionate creatives breaking into a field rife with competition. As Hannah says, “it’s enormously challenging” to work in Australian Theatre, due to the limited (but expanding!) opportunities. With the challenges of Covid and economic struggles in Australia’s housing and rent crises, “it’s hard to get paid to do what you want to do”, and there is still a large economic gap between creative arts and financial stability. Nevertheless, she persisted. Since reading the play script over four years ago, Hannah’s passion and attitude has remained upbeat, and it’s so great to see a whole team of people's efforts come to fruition. 

Putting on my ‘big-time-journalist’ hat, I ended our interview with the dreaded question, What do you want audiences to walk away feeling?

Simply, Hannah gracefully responded, “I want audiences to feel transported.”

The idea of feeling fully immersed inside a story is not a new concept, but one increasingly difficult to achieve as the idea of suspended disbelief becomes more and more convoluted. But as she states, “to engage with the story and feel like [one has] travelled is a wonderful experience.”

For me, the degree to which I am transported will ultimately come down to the authenticity of the Irish accents, as it often does in plays set in Ireland (a remark I refrained from mentioning during our interview).

I look forward to seeing this play in just over a week, and knowing what I know about Hannah Goodwin’s process and passion for this play, I can't wait to see her vision come to life. 

NEVER CLOSER
Belvoir St Theatre
25 May - 16 June

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