An artwork can do it for some people, a film, a photograph. That's what I love about art, it connects to us in such dynamic ways, and often is quite dependent on our mood at that particular time.
The Grandson character very much feels like Tim in his mid-20s – discovering my adult identity, seeing my grandparents beginning to decline and slip and I felt that a lot of my contemporaries were experiencing a similar feeling, especially to do with aging.
The starting point was the audio from hours of interviews I'd recorded with Lloyd. In particular the stories of his early days of beekeeping which were/are so full of rich imagery of an older Australian, rural life.
I did do a little bit of 'writing', sitting down at my computer and tapping out stuff, but it was very much free-flowing prose and only a little of it made it into the final script. It did however help us clarify the inter-generational placement of the work and the feeling and motivation of the Grandson character.
The aging aspect of the work was very much wedded to the experience of watching her go into high maintenance care, then decline and finally slip away.
A generation - perhaps generations of students - will now learn about the intricacies of beekeeping and something about your family story too- how does this feel?
Tell me something about your research into autobiographical writing for this work Tim -or work (s) you know and love already that provided some insight and background for the writing?
I remember loving the autobiographical works of Primo Levi when I was studying at Uni and the one theatre work I read Seven Stages of Grieving by Deborah Mailman and Wesley Enoch has also been an inspiring work.
What has been the most revealing aspect to this work for you as a writer so far?
Is there one personal favourite quote that continues to astonish you Tim?
between older men and younger men, between all men perhaps. What do you care most deeply about now in terms of male-to-male intimacy Tim?
La Mama Courthouse
27 April – 15 May 2011
349 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC
Wed & Sun 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm
$25 Full / $15 Concession
Bookings via the La Mama website or 03 9347 6142
Selected as part of the VCE Drama Playlist
Tamarama Rock Surfers at The Old Fitzroy Theatre
9-25 June 2011
129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo NSW (crn Catherdral & Dowling Sts)
Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
$33 Full / $25 Concession
$40 Beer, Laksa and Show (BLS)
Cheap Tuesday – $21 Full / $29 BLS
Bookings: 02 8019 0282 or via www.rocksurfers.org
Brisbane Powerhouse – Turbine Studio
20-24 July 2011
119 Lamington Street, New Farm Qld
Wed – Thurs 7.15pm, Fri 7.15pm + 9.15pm,
Sat 2.15pm + 7.15pm, Sun 2.15pm
$25 Full / $18 Concession, Group (8+)
Bookings: 07 3358 8600 or via www.brisbanepowerhouse.org
There are two very distinctive voices in your play ‘Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper’. Tell me a little about them.
The first is that of Lloyd, the grandfather who interacts with the audience and recollects his lifetime of beekeeping. The other is the grandson, who is grappling with the family’s past, his grief and the experience of watching his grandparents ageing.
Tell me a little about your research for the play – and what is an apiarist exactly?
An apiarist is a person who works in an apiary, essentially a collection of beehives. I did a lot of research on the wonderful and mysterious world of bees and apiarists, and got a lot of information from Lloyd himself.
There are seminal works such as the Hive and the Honey Bee, as well as various beekeeping journals and online content. Like so many things, when you scratch the surface of an art or craft or science such as beekeeping you could spend the rest of your life exploring.
Tell me something that continues to fascinate you about apiaries and apiarists?
That bees pollinate approximately a third of all the food that humans eat, so if we don’t look after our bee populations we’re pretty much screwed.
I also love the ye olde image of beekeepers being the early conservationists. They would take their hives into people’s farms, orchids and state forests and have their bees pollinate the blossom flows. This still happens, and now we even have beekeepers in the CBD and suburbs. I love that so many different cultures and peoples have found ways to collect (or rob) honey from bees – from Egypt, to Greece, China to Australia.
Smoke and bees, tell me about this strange relationship – and did you learn about this from your grandfather?
Yeah, Lloyd instructed me about how smoke pacifies the bees. I’ve learnt recently that the bees smell the smoke and believe that a bushfire’s on its way, so they hunker down and try and ride it out. It does seem to slow them down, pacify them.
At the heart of the play is a story about cross-generational relationships?
I’m fascinated the ways in which we inherit things across generations, directly and indirectly. And this is not just genetic, familial traits but the way our behaviour is shaped by our family and kinship networks.
I suppose that was an initial reason to explore the territory of the play. Who is Tim Stitz? Where did he come from? How have I become the man I am today? And in that period of adolescence and ‘becoming a man’ what happens when the natural role model for this, my dad, is no longer there?
Your play is now included on the VCE Drama syllabus. What plays does it sit alongside, and how does this feel?
It’s sitting alongside other solo-shows and productions at Red Stitch, MTC and Malthouse, which is exciting. I do like the fact that VCE students can have such a great variety in the work they or their teachers choose to attend.
You can go and check out a Bell Shakespeare show as part of the syllabus but also go to little La Mama and see an intimate show where the performers as so close you can smell them and even be spittled on by them. I love the fact that the playlist encompasses work from the larger companies and also the rich independent sector we have in Melbourne.
When you smell honey now – what do you remember?
Buttery white toast with honey strewn on top, and the extracting shed which was full of old, strange equipment and was certainly grandad’s sanctuary.
Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper is playing until May 15
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton
Thurs – Sat 8pm, Wed and Sun 6.30pm
Tickets $25 full, $12 concession