Ron Blicq Canadian playwright’s play Closure at the Chelmer Community Centre in Brisbane Queensland 2015, was the fifth staging of the play.
It previously played in Guernsey, Texas, San Antonio and Vancouver to critical acclaim.
Ron Blicq travelled from Canada to Brisbane to see the production and I was very fortunate to meet and interview him. Savouring this unique experience, I am thrilled to share his responses.
What triggered your interest in and commitment to writing plays?
I have always had an interest in live theatre, but as a single parent I never had the opportunity to do anything about it, other than take my children to local children’s theatre.
Following my ‘retirement’ as a technical writer and teacher of technical writing, I thought I would like to write children’s literature and so enrolled in a prestigious online correspondence course.
When the instructor told me I was weak on writing factual detail but very strong on writing dialogue, I turned around and ‘tried my hand’ on a new venture. Since then I have written 14 plays, 11 of which have been produced successfully and three have won awards!
Have you developed a particular pattern or schedule for writing?
No. I am involved in other endeavours, so it has to happen when I either have time or I am prompted because I have discovered a motivating topic and interesting characters. Some writers write for, say, four hours at a time; I cannot because I get so involved in what’s happening to my characters that after one hour I have to step back, feeling drained (yet pleased with what has gone onto paper/screen).
How do you see yourself and your writing making a difference?
Essentially, I like to write plays that have a compelling situation or difficulty to resolve or overcome, especially in a family environment.
Then I want the audience to come away thinking about the circumstances and the result. Most of my plays do not end with a ‘pat’ outcome. Often, viewers have to determine for themselves what will happen as a result of the outcome they have seen. As you will see Closure has such a ‘final moment’.
What was the germinating thought or experience that inspired you to write Closure?
Twenty years ago I was listening to a BBC program in which the interviewer talked to a man from The Netherlands who described how there were 25,000 people in the UK, and another 10,000 in his country, each seeking their father to achieve closure. In every case the person, now in his or her 50s, was fathered by a military person from an overseas country. The Dutchman had formed an agency to search for the fathers of men and women who engaged his services.
Sadly, only 5% or a little more would even acknowledge having a relationship with, or even knowing, the seeker’s mother. I was in a rented car in Cambridgeshire and I was intrigued that there could be a story there worth developing, so I pulled over to make notes.
How have the productions of Closure differed, across the world?
There has been very little differences, really. Each company has adhered closely to the script, making some very minor changes to the situation and the dialogue. The biggest change has been in the sets. Some theatres are wide and have room to have two complete sets on stage. Others are two small and have had to adapt to changing the set during the production. Centenary Theatre in Brisbane has a very small stage but has created a unique and previously never used idea by reversing the backdrop which has two complete sets built on it. There also have been differences in interpretation of the characters by each director and the individual actors. The Centenary cast has been the most active and outgoing cast to date.
What was your response to the current production of Closure in Brisbane?
I was extremely impressed. I have seen some of the best portrayals of the characters in the play compared to previous productions. This is not to imply that previous productions were not well done: they always have been. But this crew including cast, director, stage hands, sound and light technician have created a very strong integrated performance. The impact on me was most unusual. I discovered I was watching the play as though I had not seen it before and was growing nervous at critical moments, just as all the audience was, and equally enjoying the visual appearance of each cast member. I was not watching actors who were performing the roles I created I felt I was watching real people. There were some extraordinarily performances from actors who clearly understood the situation they were dealing with.
Do you ever have the opportunity to mentor rising playwrights?
Yes, in Guernsey, UK. The first performance of the play occurred there, by the Guernsey Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Club (GADOC), which pioneered the play for me (brave group). I am a member of the Club and chair a Playwriters’ Group where we meet each time I am in the Island and compare each other’s work. Three of my members have had a play performed at one of the annual One-Act-Play Festivals.
Does the power of words still excite you?
As a writer, and teacher, and author of books on how to write well in a scientific or business setting, this would be true. But, again, it’s not something I think about I just do it.
What is the role of Theatre in the 21st century?
In my view, to provide a venue that offsets the often low-level sit-com drama people get on television and in films. I believe there must be a strong thrust to writing good plays for children, so they get to experience the presence of real people doing real things right in front of them, instead of being on “the box” or the little screen in their hand.
What are you currently writing?
Several things: (1) A review of significant events and people who have influenced me in my life (this is in only very early stages). It will become a book but may only be available to my children, grandchildren, etc, as a heritage item. (2) Two books containing my plays, in two versions: British and American (i.e., 4 books total). (3) A play about a man who wants to become a child-care worker, in a family that feels he should hold a more ‘manly’ position in his life, like his father. As a balance, the woman he is engaged to marry (who the family has not yet met or know anything about her life), is a military helicopter pilot.
What are your other interests in life?
My family two sons and a daughter, plus their children and their children, but I do this from a distance because I don’t want to be a ‘controlling’ parent/grandparent/great-grandparent. Also, teaching workshops to businesspeople, scientists, engineers, to help them communicate more effectively in their work (I present about 20 fully-subscribed one-day workshops a year). The workshops help support my travels.
Are there any additional comments you would like to add?
That’s easy, I am so very glad I came here, because I have seen an extraordinary rendition of my original thoughts, and partly because I am re-treading old ground. I was last in Brisbane in the summer of 1949-50 when I was seconded by the RAF to fly on research, flying with the RAAF bomber squadron at Amberley for six months. I was a navigator in the air force.
Ron Blicq is currently in Guernsey attending a Festival that opened with sixty children presenting two musical plays that were very well received.
He would love to see his plays produced at other venues across Australia and I look forward to his return and the opportunity to absorb more of the optimism and compassion in the man and his plays.
Rose Niland, Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015