Lie with Me – Lisa chats with Liz Hobart (Theatre Interview)
The burden placed on women to be ‘good mothers’ starts much earlier than than pregnancy and never ends. It’s an irrational pathology with its societal roots in our own desire to keep our mother ‘for us’ and a refusal to see her as anything other than the incubator and nurturer of our own magnificence. We see our mothers in particular as determinants of our subjectivity, even though we take our accomplishments for ourselves. (M)Other cops it when we are stuff ups, but she is rarely credited with our struggled and fought for success. She is an enigma against which we like to brace, a launch pad for our psyche. For these and many other reasons, we are filled with anxiety when a female doesn’t want to be a mother, or insists she is the best person to make that decision for herself. Even more, when a birthed child turns out to be a monster, it is to the parents, especially mothers, that we turn to seek out answers to our questions. Liz Hobart has written a compelling piece of drama entitled Lie with Me that deals with these issues and more. Currently playing at the 505 Theatre in Newtown, and produced by Brave New Word Theatre Company, the venue’s website had this to say about Lie With Me:
“Will I be forgiven for the sins I didn’t commit, but created?” – Mrs Dahmer, a poem by Sierra Mulder
A mother watches on TV as her son is arrested for the murder of three young men, their bodies discovered in his apartment. Her friends text their support but always had their doubts, while her weatherman ex-husband becomes a media sensation in the aftermath of the televised tragedy. What follows is a kaleidoscopic journey of investigation into a mother’s past and future.
With her life suddenly thrust under the microscope, Lie With Me is a mother’s desperate attempt to survive in a world that names her the Mother of a Monster. Combining dynamic physical and visual storytelling, the show creates an intimate portrait of a woman facing the greatest crisis a mother can face. Lie With Me is a visceral, honest work exploring the limits of the human heart.
Liz Hobart has been working on Lie With Me for over 18 months, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to have a good chat with her. You can read the engaging answers she gave my questions below. Enjoy!
LT: The Frankenstein mythology is an interesting take on the role of mothers, particularly since it was written by a young woman. In many ways, our children are an imaginary double of the self, outside of society and language. Besides self-blame how does the mother in Lie With Me see herself through her child?
LH: The mother in Lie With Me has only recently lived the freedom of an identity separable from her son and her ex-husband, before her son’s arrest ties her tightly back to him but also his acts of evil. All elements of the show are portrayed through the lens of the mother and while this involves a search for self-blame or lack thereof, what she struggles with is how much she relates his nature to her own self. She perceives her son as a part of her and mirrors all of his personal struggles with hers, which proves detrimental to her identity when it contributes to the label of the ‘mother of a monster’. In order to reconstruct her identity, she must make the decision of who she is going to be without him.
LT: If “The Self-illumination of society through symbols is an essential part of social reality”-Lacan (that is, we understand society through symbols we examine that we have imposed upon it) is examination of the mothers of monsters a distraction or an illumination to uncovering what makes a monster?
LH: In the context of the play, I would say the media are constructing a distraction under the guise of illumination. There is a blur between the justice system and the media circus when it comes to the interrogation of the mother in Lie With Me, in which the search for answers of what went wrong pushes for a black-and-white approach to good and evil – mother vs. father. This examination of the mother of a monster is a distraction from the grey areas of what could have made the monster.
However, the grey areas are exactly what we are aiming to examine in Lie With Me. By evoking the sense that such horror could drop into anyone’s life, we are able to deepen the doubt within memories and illuminate the relatability of these circumstances when coloured by a present event. This play is not just about what makes a monster, but what the monster makes the mother.
LT: Why do you think we are we interested in the parents of humans who have committed terrible crimes?
LH: We are fascinated with the making of a monster, so access to the creators of the monster helps to build up the dimensions of the narrative around them. Searching for the absence of maternal or paternal care, for different types of abuse and for mistakes in parenting are ways that we can see what went wrong. This is not only to reassure ourselves, but to form a separation between ourselves and the Other. Parents of criminals, especially in the more heightened cases like this one, can potentially offer examples of missed signposts or a different side to the person we are trying to dehumanise. Whether this allows us to make excuses and form opinions, or to brand them as evil and write them off, there is always a morbid curiosity within the nature vs. nurture debate.
LT: In ‘WE Need to talk about Kevin” director Lynne Ramsay complained that key brands such as Coke and Campbells soup took steps to remove their products from the film for fear of being associated with a film about a serial killer and his cold mother. Lie with Me deals in part with societies symbolism and their aberrance for anything associated with a human monster. Why do you think society feels a need to reject anything symbolically associated with crime?
LH: Society often feels a need to reject anything that is constructed as the Other, so naturally anything associated with crime must be rejected even in a society that is obsessed with it. In Lie With Me, we explore how the concept of evil is used to dehumanise those who commit crimes to such a horrific extent. Through stripping away their humanity, we are freed from any association with a person like us who has murdered other people. Society feels the need to reject association with crime because it is actually so close to us already, and entertaining any relatability with criminals – such as the product placement you referenced – would break down the boundaries between good and evil. It shows a potential for evil in all of us. This relatability is what we are directly engaging with in Lie With Me.
LT: What was your motivation for wanting to write a play like Lie with Me?
LH: As a writer, I have a constant interest in the concept of motherhood and how it is directly linked to expectations of female fulfilment. In writing Lie With Me, with the help of an 18-month process involving creative developments with actors and director/co-creator Warwick Doddrell to generate material, my motivation was to look at how mothers are perceived in the media and social environments. If there is any lack of expected maternal warmth and innocence, the world can quite easily shut off to them. If women are not naturally nurturing then they must be the opposite – cold and removed. Our protagonist is a mother, like any other, but nothing seems enough to spare her. I want to spark discussion and change perception on characters like this one. Although the story is dark, Lie With Me has humour and heart that gives a sense of hope for audiences to leave with.