The Reaction Theory’s The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ Brings Complex, Messy and Real Women to Backdock Arts

The Reaction Theory’s The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ is playing an almost sold-out season this weekend at Backdock Arts. This production is The Reaction Theory’s first ever mainhouse show supported by the Jennifer Blocksidge Memorial Award. Written by Zoey Dawson, the show can be described as tender, sad, funny, dramatic, and beautiful. This raw, honest production is about a breakup but it’s not a breakup play. It features many intricate emotional layers.

Bravo Brisbane had the delightful opportunity to catch up for an interview with the director of The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’, Ruby Sanders and one of the actors, Mackenzie Curtis. They talked to us about feminism, portraying real women on stage and what it takes to make it in the world of theatre as young, aspiring artists in Brisbane. Check out what they had to say!

Tell us a little about The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’?

Ruby says:

I first came across this play at uni last year and fell absolutely in love with it. I’d never read a play that was so relatable yet over-the-top and dramatic at the exact same time. When I found out The Reaction Theory was putting it on, I felt like I already knew exactly how I would want to direct the show. And here I am, directing the show with a dream cast and crew and having the time of my life. 

The play follows Zoey. She has written her first-ever play and is staging a play-reading. The play-reading doesn’t exactly go as planned and let’s just say she endures an emotional rollercoaster of a night. It is hilarious. It is sparkly. It is meta. It is heart-breaking. And it says to young women who just want to make art, “You aren’t alone, it’s hard for all of us.”

Mackenzie says:

This is such a brilliant play, in my opinion, it is one of the first of its kind in many ways. Firstly, in the structure, in a world full of well-made-plays the modern audience seems to be ‘stuck’ in the concept of comfortable theatre as the predictability of what we see on stage can rarely leave us with bubbling thoughts or inquisitiveness.

Zoey Dawson effectively destroys any sort of traditional play structure and presents us with something you haven’t seen before. This allows the audience to experience a ‘new’ and unexpected format. SPOILER: You don’t even get to clap at the end of this play.  Most importantly, the way that Zoey has articulated a representation of herself allows a depiction of a woman that is real. The character experiences heart break unfolding before the audience and the way this feminist work is wonderfully constructed is revolutionary. We so rarely (and it’s about time) see representation of women in a way that are complex, driven, messy, disgusting, funny, thoughtful, and real.  

Tell us about yourself?

Ruby says:

My name is Ruby Sanders. I’m 20 years old and am currently studying acting at QUT. I’ve always been first and foremost an actor but in the last few years, I’ve discovered a keen curiosity in theatre-making and directing. While I’ve co-directed short plays and university projects before, this is my first solo directing venture (scary). What a ripper of a play to get started with.

Mackenzie says:

Hello! I’m Mackenzie Curtis, 20, and I currently live in Brisbane. I am completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) degree at QUT, I was involved in theatre in high school, and I have loved it ever since. 

What is your dream role?

Ruby says:

This one is tough. As a director, I’m not sure yet. I love the idea of redefining classic texts with a feminist twist! But I also love comedy so something feminist and funny! Maybe Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play, Fleabag (the one that came before the TV show). 

Mackenzie says:

My dream role is Ladybird. Because Ladybird is brilliant. If you haven’t seen the movie… you should! 

Who is your biggest role model and why?

Ruby says:

This is constantly changing, but I’m currently just obsessed with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I love how honest she is in her art about how messy and disgusting it is to be a young woman! For similar reasons, I also am super inspired by Greta Gerwig’s directing style and choices. She makes great films through the lens of the female gaze and that’s a quality I really want to bring to all my work!

Mackenzie says:

I have so many! It’s too hard, I just love seeing amazing women being able to take more complex and interesting roles in recent years. 

What advice do you have for anyone aspiring to work in theatre?

Ruby says:

Just do it! This industry is brutal, but it can also be incredibly generous. People are always willing to help. The world is your oyster and there are so many opportunities waiting for you to find them. And you don’t need to start big. Write a show with your friends! Direct a short play for a student play festival! Audition for any role you can find! Most importantly: practice, practice, practice. You WILL get better!

Mackenzie says:

Get involved in as much as you possibly can. With each experience you learn and grow and take that onto the next project where you can learn more from all the creatives you meet along the way. Also, read lots of books about topics within that area that are interesting to you.

What do you do before a show?

Ruby says:

Dance! Before every show, I just like to put on a banger and boogie.

Mackenzie says:

I make sure to do a vocal and physical warm up to make sure that I will be ‘on voice’ and physically present in my body for the show. 

Why should we come to see The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’?

Ruby says:

It’s about young people. It’s about people like us. Young, confused, creatives who just want to express themselves to the world. There aren’t many shows about our demographic. You will laugh (I hope) and cry (I hope) and feel as though you were just taken on an absolute rollercoaster ride!

Mackenzie says:

It is completely unlike any other play I have ever read or show I’ve seen. The cast, the creatives, producers are so brilliant and have worked hard to make sure that this is an unbelievable play like no other. 

What’s next for you?

Ruby says:

A break! I’ve had a big year and I’m going into my final year of uni. Hopefully, there will be some directing opportunities next year but I’m ready to give up control for a bit and focus on acting for a while.

Mackenzie says:

Next year I will be finishing my third and final year of QUT Acting, where we will have our final shows and learn more about the industry through the year, and then we graduate and who knows! 

Leave us with a final inspiration?

Ruby says:

Make theatre! Go see theatre! Make films! Watch films! Make music! Listen to music! The world is waiting to hear what you have to say so just say it!

Mackenzie says:

Come to the play or you are a coward. Haha!

The Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’ is playing Backdock Arts until Sunday 27 November 2021. You can read all about it on The Reaction Theory’s website or by following them on Facebook or Instagram.

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