Big Crow: Lisa Interviews Mark Langham




Big Crow is based, loosely, on a true story. In the early 1930’s two young and destitute Londoners, Tommy and Albie, were offered a spur of the moment trip to Australia. No sooner had they landed than they were
taken off to work as virtual slaves on a huge station, completely at the mercy of the station owner Roy; a man whose life has been a stream of disappointments. Tommy is a weasel – swift, cunning and potentially fatal. Albie could crush you with his kindness but only if Tommy told him to. Their desperation has led them to a decision – they’re going to kill Roy. Roy’s wife Peg and daughter Rosemary enter but are far more interested in watching than saving him. The murder is put on hold and a dialogue begins. Tommy wants out of his poverty and doesn’t care where that takes him or what he has to do to get there. London, Australia or anywhere. Rosemary is sick of living in a place still being made, and longs to live “…somewhere that’s finished!” Albie wants to be warm, fed and have a pair of boots without holes. Peg doesn’t know what she wants but fears that her real life may have died along with Rosemary’s real father – another casualty of the Great War. Roy wants to avoid the rope.

Who stays and who goes? In the end, does it matter? We take what we are with us. No matter where they have come from, these people are equal strangers in this land they occupy. They are all what they were
when they arrived and, so far, have learned little. Just like the crows. They stared at Albie when he left the docks in England. They were waiting for him when he landed in Australia, and he can hear them
on the barn roof now.

When a play sounds this thrilling, I like to grab the opportunity to pop the writer a couple of fast questions. I was lucky enough to grab the attention of Mark Langham for a couple of precious moments, before this production opens today.

Brave New Word has been working collaboratively with writers to produce critically acclaimed new work since 2013. They have been recognised as a leading platform for emerging Australian playwrights
and theatre practitioners, and are excited share the premier of Big Crow with audiences in February. Big Crow is playing at The Actors Pulse in Redfern, 21 Feb to 4 March.

You can grab your tickets here.


Interview with Mark Langham
LT:  Why is it so important to revisit stories from our past? What can we learn from history, personal, Australian and for all humanity?
ML: It’s difficult to answer without resorting to cliché but, personally, I need to feel as though I belong somewhere.  The past, be it individual or collective, informs who we are right now and gives us an insight into why we made (or continue to make) certain choices.  (Cliché alert) We are the sum of all that we have done.
LT:  As a writer, do you prefer to examine stories that have happened, or invent entire narratives as fiction? What are the challenges of both? 
ML: I’ve done both and enjoyed both.  Writing a completely fictional piece has a freedom that you don’t get if you are trying to portray actual events.  My last two longer works (inc. Big Crow) have been, at least in part, based on fact.  History gives you a better storyline.  You know where you are and where you have to get to.  That’s not to say I haven’t messed with the real narrative of this story…
LT: What three things did you find most fascinating about researching Australia in the 1930’s.
ML: How easy life was:  you want to go to Australia?  Just get on a boat.  How hard life was:  If you were poor, no one gave a damn who you were or where you came from and no one had your back.  How little we realised the impact we had on the people who lived here before us.
LT: Do you think Australia still suffers from a cultural cringe? Do we compare our artists (particularly our writers) to the UK too much. What aspects of Big Crow make a comment on Australian insecurity with our own creative product?
ML: I don’t buy into the cultural cringe.  Maybe because I am English I don’t compare myself with anyone from UK – I don’t compare myself with anyone at all.  I wanted Big Crow to be as good as I could make it and that was my only imperative.
LT:  What first captured you about the story of Tommy and Albie?
ML: Tommy told me the story.  I met him about 25 years ago when he was in his 80’s and he had had an extraordinary life.  This was just one episode…