At this year’s inaugural Boomerang Festival, actor/writer Tammy Anderson presents the longest running aboriginal play in the country, the critically acclaimed I Don’t Wanna Play House, a gritty and confronting piece that tackles domestic violence and child abuse.
Why did you choose to create a show about domestic violence and child abuse?
I chose to write a story about domestic violence and child abuse to show audiences the truth. I wanted the audience to feel, to see, to be challenged. We read about these issues, or see them on TV etc but in theatre and through performance, we can take the audience on the journey with emotions. What comes from the heart, goes to the heart. Theatre is a powerful medium and this enabled me to have a voice. I wanted to share my personal experiences, to open up my soul. This story is a universal story, a human being story. I wanted to penetrate my audience. To make change in society, to help those who don’t understand, get a glimpse of the horror movie that many go through. But most importantly, to help those who have suffered to know that they are not alone. And by being an example, sharing my pain, and showing that I’ve come through it and have a wonderful life, have survived, as a mum, an artist, gives so many others hope. To share one’s pain, is the beginning of healing. When I present the work everywhere I go, I know I have helped someone take that step.
What were the challenges you faced in telling a story like this?
I’ve had many challenges to face. Writing the work was very cathartic, and confronting. I had to be sensitive to my family. I had to look after myself. I have taken on a huge responsibility. I had to make sure that the audiences were looked after in regards to services, as I’m not a counsellor, and I wanted to make sure that people had the right people close by to talk to, or information to guide them. Personally, I had to work through the darkness and find the strength and courage.
The show has been running well over a decade now – does that surprise you?
I never thought I’d be running the show after 13 years. But after taking it out there in the world, and sharing my story, it became so many people’s stories. So no it doesn’t surprise me at all. I think I will be telling this yarn for a long time.
How has the show impacted on people afterwards? What have people come up and told you? Do you feel you have empowered people in these situations?
The response has been amazing. People are literally blown away. This show has been received with standing ovation around the world. And most definitely people in these situations have been empowered.
Has DV touched your life?
Yes DV has touched my life. It has scarred deeply. I have had to do a lot of personal work. It has affected my relationships, my trust. You don’t get over it. You have to learn to deal with it. Depression, anxiety. I have made wrong choices in relationships, have been through emotional abuse, and have had post-traumatic stress.
How has the play changed over time, you have matured as the writer and actor so what else do you bring to the script? Do you love that freedom for a work to grow with you?
The play has changed over time, because I have grown over time. The show is deeper. The performance is deeper, because I have become stronger. It is a unique work, the way I present the story is unique. I have finessed each character. After 13 years the detail is specific and the show and performance is of high quality. I love this work, I love performing it because it is so special to me, so close to my heart. I know what it represents and I know its power, and that in itself is amazing. I love that freedom of the work growing with me, and each time I perform it I still find something new. It is always a new show, a new audience, a new space. To hear the audience hold their breath, and to see fear on their face, tears, or hear their laughter, I have them in the palm of my hand, ready to take them on the rollercoaster ride of life! As each year goes by, my life changes in some way, and I get to share that update in a section of the story. Now there is a very new chapter and when I get to that part of the story, the audience will hear that my path has changed dramatically. I have only shared this new chapter in two recent shows and the audience erupted and there was a thunderous applause. This isn’t just a theatre show with a beginning, middle and end, it’s a story about life, my life. Each day is a new day.
Have you always been a storyteller?
Yes I guess I have, as a little girl I would stand on the steps of housing commission houses and get all the kids in the street sit on the front yard and listen to me sing and tell stories. A little girl with a great imagination and big dreams. I’m still living that dream.
How did you find yourself at Swinburne?
From a story in the paper, launching the course. I went along to on open day, checked it out and thought, I’m gonna give it a go.
Then John Bolton gave me a scholarship to his Theatre School in Williamstown, and the rest is history!
How did the decision to be involved in theatre as a writer and actress change your life? Did you think at the time you could do it?
My life has changed dramatically. I have found my true passion, I have found my gift. I absolutely love what I do, and I keep creating, and producing works about the human condition. I deeply care about my work, and understand the power of theatre, of storytelling.
I have travelled the world with this show, changing many lives. I have presented on the best stages, through small communities who are disadvantaged to presenting in prisons. My work has opened up my eyes and has changed me as a person, as a human being. I have made friendships across the world, I have heard stories whispered in my ears, I have met people in high places, I have cried with those who have suffered. I have sat and listened to thousands of stories. I have laughed with many. I have heard anger. I have seen the truth. I didn’t get time to think if I could do it, I just did it. I had to be brave. I took on a huge responsibility.
How do you approach I Don’t Wanna Play House each time you run – do you have any way of preparing?
I prepare myself by keeping very fit and healthy, both physically and mentally. I have to keep my voice strong and ready.
I eat well. I meditate, do yoga and have joined a gym. I swim, I walk. I stay positive in my head. My warm-up is full of stretching, and preparing my body for the show. I roll around on the stage, making sure every inch of me touches the floor! I play 16 characters with no props, no set. I mentally take myself through the journey.
I sing every favourite song on my ipod… (loud) and engage with every pocket of my soul. I awaken all senses.
I am present in my performance, very ready. I have the biggest adrenalin rush every single show. It’s always as if it’s the first time. It’s addictive! I am well-prepared. I want my performance to be the best, every time.
What should we expect for Boomerang Festival?
Boomerang Festival has the best of the best in the line-up. Rhoda has programmed an amazing festival, she has a great eye!
I am truly honoured to be presenting with artists of high calibre. Expect to have your world rocked!
I Don’t Wanna Play House, is a powerful story, told in a unique way. You will be challenged, you will cry, you will be shocked, you will understand, you will feel, you will laugh, you will hold your breath, you will exhale. You will celebrate a life, a journey.
You will remember this story for a long time.
October long weekend.