A Nest Of Skunks – Lisa chats with Roger Vickery with support from James Balian (Theatre Interview)


A Nest Of Skunks is one of the surprise powerhouse contributions to the 2016 theatre calendar. An close examination of the way we relate to our immigrants, both legal and illegal, with a clever plot twist that facilitates the journey toward a deeper understanding of how it might be to live as a person forced from your home through circumstance. Check out what The Depot Theatre said in their blurb:

Collaborations Theatre Group returns with a new Australian play, a dark and sticky thriller about a family of asylum seekers sheltering in a house that proves to be anything but safe.

Considering our relationship with The Immigrant has become so turgid in recent years, I thought I would pose some deeper questions to Roger and James, co-writers of A Nest Of Skunks. Roger was kind enough to provide some answers, with a blessing on them by James.



This image has been taken from the video interview conducted by Theatre Now. See the full version at their You Tube channel here.

LT:  What made you want to write A Nest Of Skunks and why do you think it will make a difference?
RV: The play arose from a short story of mine, written over nine years ago. The play which has evolved from there remains true to the two main themes of the story.
Firstly, it reveals the motives and challenges of  a woman who feels compelled to help displaced ‘others’  who have been successfully demonized as dangerous and offensive by  the power elites in her country. James and I know from very different personal experiences  there are always a few who will stand up and take great risks in those circumstances – including threats to their own families, which requires a deeper courage (and self centredness?) than the physical kind . Whenever majorities in ‘civilized’ countries  become so timid and gullible that they  to allow human beings to be treated like asbestos rubbish, the flinty morality of the individuals who take action in the other direction is a precious counterbalance. If and when we me come through these dark times their stand will make us feel better about ourselves and be an example for how to respond to the next threat of the same ilk.
Secondly, displaced persons are rarely saints. They are people with flaws like you and me,  and above all they are desperate. What would do or say to gain sanctuary for your family? And in their journey they will encounter a range of heroes and villians. Good people can lie. Bad people will sometimes do good things. Schindler’s LIst etc.
It’s debatable if theatre or the arts can make a difference. Of all the things we’ve written in our long and varied careers, however, we believe this one has a better shot at achieving that highly ambitious goal. When you leave the Depot Theatre there is a question we want to be ringing in your ears like a bout of tinnitus: –What if that was me and mine?  What if we were the skunks?
LT: It has been said the huge problem of globalization is at the heart of the immigration problem. How does A Nest of Skunks address the idea that the heart of this problem is too big to handle?
RV: Our play is a thriller, a drama. We focus on strong characters on both sides of the refugee/asylum seeker diaspora. There are solutions. They are messy, fraught, risky, expensive …But we only seem to be willing to get down and really try when the human loss becomes as personal as seeing our neighbour’s child hit by a car. Suddenly, then, you’re willing to scream at the authorities to make your neighborhood safe. Our play tries to provide that close up focus
LT: The primary pathology of the racist is to refuse to see the Jew or the Muslim as a person, but to see them only as an embodiment of Jew-ness or Muslim-ness. How does A Nest of Skunks contradict this way of categorizing people?
RV: We deliberately don’t  touch on religion. The pathology of portraying the ‘others’ as  foul and dangerous is a brilliant parasite that embeds itself in the belly of any and very marked point of difference. We hope the closing revelation, which Michael Cathcart on RN’s Books and Arts Program described as ‘a surprise of Balltlestar Galactica proportions’, is a parasite antidote.
LT: How does theatre make a difference to our fear of the Other?
RV: My father died  a short while ago. He was a kind, smart man who was completely in thrall to the shock jocks  Victoria. The ‘skunk’ parasite bloomed in his belly. We disagreed vociferously but we loved each other. He put a few hundred dollars into the play because of that love and I didn’t let off teasing him for selling out to the cause of social justice. I know if he could have met the real versions of the skunks in our play he would have had a change of heart. That’s  why there’s a photo of him stuck to the fridge in Lilly’s kitchen.
LT: Do you think the current rise in racism we are seeing is really a failure of the intellectual left to come up with real solutions to the problems of immigration?
RV: That’s part of it. It’s a tough sell. As  I’ve said , there are solutions. They are messy, fraught, risky, expensive… Gulags should not be one of them. That would be my Tony Abbot-type one line message.

A Nest Of Skunks is on at The Depot Theatre from 3-13 August. You can grab your tickets here.