Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: James Palm & Bridget Le May

James Palm and Bridget Le May are writer and director respectively, of Threshold a new political play that confronts the issue of detention and journalist’s roles in the discourse surrounding asylum seekers. We caught up with them ahead of the opening this week at the Blue Room Theatre.

How did Threshold come about?

James Palm: The idea started forming back in 2016, after Chris Kenny became the first journalist on Nauru in three years. I wondered how it came to be him of all people; a noted supporter of refugee detention. A right-wing journo exploiting this situation for their own benefits seemed like a really interesting story to explore, especially as the alt-right movement had only recently become a talking point in the media. So I started writing what was then a cat-and-mouse conversation between two characters debating the changing role of the media. After months of development, the story has fleshed out to include journalists, politicians and lawyers; each seeking their own agenda but still framed around the immigration debate.

Bridget Le May: My journey with the play began right at the first draft. At the time it was a two hander between two male characters and there was a total absence of female perspective. James and I developed the script together over a year, introducing a powerful female voice. We took it to a reading where some incredible theatre minds picked it apart and shared there thoughts with us. That’s really where ‘Threshold’ began. The story broke open after that. Suddenly we were exploring four powerful people and playing with time and location. That’s when the play came into its own. 

What does the play say about how Australia treats asylum seekers?

JP: Without giving too much away, the play presents several perspectives on asylum seekers themselves. As for the detention policies of the current and previous Australian governments, Threshold is unflinching in its condemnation.

BLM: Perhaps that would be telling. The play navigates left and right ideologies from personal perspectives. The work is not shy about international human rights abuses, but the characters themselves have their own personal ideologies, which I think James has handled with great respect. 

It’s been years since the ban on journalists at Nauru and this play is set in 2016, how does the show relate to issues in 2018?

JP: Regrettably, all too well. Refugees detained on Nauru and formally on Manus Island have continued to suffer. 12 have died in the last five years. The Opposition has not made a commitment to reversing the current immigration policies, and so these issues will continue to be relevant potentially for years to come. This crisis is something that all Australians should be aware of, and yet most are ignorant to it. Or worse; satisfied by it.

BLM: This play is so topical. Only a few weeks ago an ABC journalist was banned from covering a conference on Nauru because the Nauru government perceived a negative reporting bias from the ABC. This kind of censorship is directly and publicly manipulating the freedom of information around detention. Last week Australia saw Channel 9 take over Fairfax media, a merger which significantly reduces diversity in the reporting that Australians will have access to. We would be foolish to think the culture of reporting won’t shift over time. The most recent refugee suicide was only a few months ago. Everything we are dealing with is vitally important, right now. 

Do you sympathise with any of the characters in particular?

JP: Yes, except for Peter. I mostly sympathise with Alex, the newly crowned editor of a large Sydney newspaper. She wants to see change occur in society, but is not willing to sacrifice her ideals for short gains. She is the most level-headed character in the play, so I respect her the most.

BLM: I sympathise with them all as a director. I think it is important to understand what drives them. Saying that, as a person I align most with Alex’s journey, who is the ambitious new editor of the newspaper. We have a lot in common. 

Describe the play in 3 words: 

JP: Well our marketing tagline is “Corruption. Power. Control.” But I’ll mix it up and say “What is Truth?”

BLM: Seriously sharp! (is two ok?)

You can catch Threshold here:

WHEN: 7 – 25 August 2018 | 7pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Northbridge | PERTH

INFO: Tickets $20 – $30 | Duration 60 mins | Recommended 15+ | Q&A 15th August


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