Inspired by the works of Walkley Award-winning journalist Sophie McNeill, Perth Theatre Company’s new production, From The Rubble, examines the experiences of civilians stuck in conflict zones and how our experience of their lives is mediated via modern modes of journalism. We speak to musician turned actor Mei Saraswati about her role in the piece.
Speaking of From The Rubble, Mei Saraswati says, “I think it’s an emotional response to news stories and journalism, and it’s an extension of journalism. So it really delves into the more personal side of news stories and the universal human emotions – feelings the needs of people that are experiencing conflict. The play is also about how we view news and how we view those stories that come out of war zones and conflict zones. How we might be removed from how we view it and how we feel about it, so it’s an investigation into that as well.”
Saraswati is well known in the Perth music scene, but this is her first endeavour in the realm of live theatre. Oddly, she seemed fated to get involved in the project.
“I was just talking to a friend about how I’d love to get involved in theatre or dance,” she explains. “Making music for that instead of just doing gigs and she was like, ‘You should definitely do that,’ but I didn’t know how to go about it – I didn’t know anybody in theatre or dance. And the next day I got an email from Ian Sinclair, who’s the artist in residence at Perth Theatre Company and just a gorgeous man, and he asked if I would be interested in meeting Mel Cantwell, the director of PTC, and just maybe discussing working on a few shows or one show in particular. So that’s how I got involved.
“It’s very strange because I kind of put that thought out into the universe and Ian telepathically got that or something (laughs) and they contacted me out of the blue, by chance. But it’s awesome to think that you can have an intention and send it out into the world and someone else picks up on it.”
The thing is, Saraswati is not just providing some music for the show – “I’m kind of composing a few things,” she explains. “But Joe Lui, who’s an amazing composer, he’s doing 90 per cent of the music and sound for the show.” – she is making her acting debut as well, which presents its own set of challenges and creative opportunities.
“All of the performers in the piece have had a hand in developing their characters,” she says. “I started doing improv on the first day with the girls, the other two girls, Mikala Westall and Tina Torabi, who are amazing. So I was learning from them, pretty much – I’d never acted or done anything like that before. Then I just started becoming involved in the development of the piece as a performer.”
From The Rubble runs at the PICA Performance space until Saturday, March 28. Go to perththeatre.org.au for information and tickets.