Teenager makes directorial debut
Laura Davies has a stack of half-written novels in her bedroom awaiting further inspiration. Her room's full of clay sculptures and papier mache puppets that she makes in her spare time.
But at the tender age of 16 the Rosehill College student is making her mark in a different creative outlet - directing her first play.
The student spent a year writing Pet, a play based on the experiences of a young woman in a hospital psychiatric ward.
With the play debuting at the prestigious Hawkins Theatre next week you'd expect some nerves but Laura's staying pretty calm.
Although she only started drama at school last year, her family are all playwrights and actors, she says.
"We've got a big history of theatre in our blood."
And she's keeping it the family - her stepsister Melissa Cornwell plays the main role.
Laura drew on her own life for the play because "I couldn't write something like this with no experience of mental illness".
And given its subject matter is the mind of a psychiatric patient, don't expect a tidy linear narrative, she says.
Characters like Creature and the Mob represent the chaos inside Pet's mind, questions about when she arrived at or leaves the hospital and even why she's there are left open-ended.
Laura says compared to novel-writing she found the play "extremely easy" because "I could visualise it the whole time".
"When I was writing it I knew it was going to be up on stage eventually and after a whole year of daydreaming I had a very particular image in my head.
"But I've also let the actors show me what they thought and halfway through rehearsals I wrote a whole new scene because it didn't feel like it was doing justice to Pet's situation."
The play was partially funded by Creative New Zealand and $5 from every ticket sold goes to the charity Life After Cancer, which helps cancer survivors through depression and the after-effects of the illness.
Laura's mum Janet says although she knew her daughter could write she had misgivings about her directing skills. But at the first rehearsal she was "sitting there gobsmacked".
"I thought, this kid is beyond her years. You would have thought it was her fourth or fifth play," Mrs Davies says.
"I'm not saying this just because I'm her mother. It's at the Hawkins Theatre, people are paying money and they've got expectations. I didn't want to see Laura turn out a fool because her mother's got blinkers on - but she's proved herself. She's got it."
Laura says she learnt at intermediate school that the first rule of art is there's no wrong answer.
"It's art. It's whatever you want it to be."
Pet is on August 14 and 16, 7.30pm at Hawkins Theatre, 13 Ray Small Dr. Tickets $15 for students and $20 for adults, email jmd@slingshot. co.nz or call Paper Power on 298 5280.
You can read Laura's production blog at http://mayproduction.wordpress.com
- © Fairfax NZ News
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