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Shay Debney & Julia Robertson discuss the premiere of 'Do You Mind?' at the Old Fitz Theatre

Written by Justin Clarke

A thought-provoking journey into the innovative and daring exploration of pure inquisition is set to premiere at the Old Fitz Theatre in Do You Mind?


Inspired by the book The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? and brought to life by playwright Shay Debney, this new production delves into the playful realm of questions, inviting audiences to explore the joy of discovery and the delightful twists and turns that questions can unveil in the human psyche.


As the show ventures through eccentric absurdist realms and touches upon dark existential themes, it maintains a vibrant spirit of humor and silliness, guided by Debney's craftsmanship. Collaborating with director Julia Robertson (Metropolis, The Lost Boys), Do You Mind? promises to be a theatrical experience that pushes the boundaries of inquiry and challenges conventions with fearless curiosity.


Ahead of its debut at the Old Fitz Theatre on April 23rd, Theatre Thoughts explored the creative process and thematic depths of this new production through an exclusive Q&A with Shay Debney and Julia Robertson.


Do You Mind? Old Fitz Theatre

 

What inspired Do You Mind? and what do you hope audiences will take away from the show?


Shay: The inspiration for the show was sparked after reading The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? — a uniquely captivating book that intrigued me with its playful exploration solely through questions. I began by writing new questions over many months, initially in a stream of consciousness, hoping to eventually craft them into some sort of mildly cohesive monologue.


In addition to inciting curiosity and introspection, I aim for audiences to delight in the playful spirit of the show. I want them to revel in the joy of discovery and the delightful twists and turns that questions can unveil, ultimately leaving with a furthered appreciation for the whimsical and thought-provoking nature of inquiry.


Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.
Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.

The description of the show mentions various themes and theatrical styles. Can you elaborate on how these elements come together in this production?


Shay: Although it is eccentrically absurdist show and makes giant leaps in thought, often traversing through multiple subjects in an incredibly short space of time, it does delve into some pretty dark and existential themes. I believe this subject matter is always unearthed best when layered with an abundance of humour and silliness. I have constantly been inspired by the simplicity of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s stage version of Fleabag which captivates audiences with little more than it’s text. I also bring in strong elements of movement, inspired by the conventions of physical theatre that steers the show’s curiosity through the physical plane.

 

The production seems to invite audiences to engage with questions and uncertainties. How do you approach the challenge of creating a show that revolves around questions rather than answers?


Shay: I think all good theatre ask questions! But I guess most shows probably don’t fill their whole script with them. The foundation of my approach involves cultivating a unique rapport with the audience, one that really allows the dialogue to wander every which way and builds an openness to be guided blindly through questionable terrain. I absolutely love to kindly fuck with them too! This relationship with the audience is what maintains their engagement where any real sense of narrative is sparse.

Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.
Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.

 

Can you share any insights into the collaborative process with the cast and creatives and how this has shaped the final production?


Shay: Crafting this show has been a labour of love spanning nearly four years, and until recently, it's been quite a solitary journey. I couldn't be more thrilled to welcome a fresh perspective into the mix in Julia Robertson, who is such an exciting and versatile creative. Her contributions have breathed new life into this so-far solo endeavour, transforming this wildly absurd concept into a vibrantly touching work. It's been an exhilarating journey watching this show evolve from mere questions on a page into a dynamic, multi-dimensional production but I'm so incredibly proud to soon share it with Sydney audiences.


Julia: Shay and I are yet to meet in person! We will have just a week and a bit to get this one person absurdist tornado on its feet and honestly, I think that's perfect. Shay's performed a tester of this show before in Melbourne, and having written it, it's in his bones already. We've chatted and emailed for a while and have a few ideas bubbling, but it's room for play that really is the most necessary with this work. There's no telling how an audience may respond from one question to the next, and it's that openness to fluctuation that is really important.

 

In your opinion, what makes Do You Mind? a unique and compelling theatrical experience?

 

Julia: Let's ask ANOTHER question! Who's making work like this? As a creative I'm kind of obsessed with whatever it is I haven't seen yet or done before. And along comes this perfect little challenge. Shay is a kind, receptive, incredibly brave and bold human for birthing this ambitious work and that alone deserves to be celebrated! As for the work itself, it's so surprising. It's so, so silly and funny and chaotic then just when you've reached some comically existential burnout you’re cradled into a tender self reflection. But I also feel like everyone's responses will be personal. When you're posed with that many questions, how can you not begin to really consider your answers?


Shay: What truly makes Do You Mind? a unique and compelling theatrical experience is its fearless exploration of pure inquisition. This show pushes the boundaries of what questions can be, stretching and probing them beyond what I initially imagined possible. Yet, it goes even further by questioning the very essence of theatre itself. This curious journey invites audiences to engage with questions that challenge conventions and expectations, resulting in a theatrical experience unlike any other.


Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.
Do You Mind? Hero Image: Supplied.

 

DO YOU MIND?

Written and performed by Shay Debney


Question. Quandary. Watercooler.

Do You Mind? at the Old Fitz Theatre is the Sydney premiere of the multitalented Shay Debney's new absurdist monologue. Don't miss these late night poetic musings!

What do you want this show to be, really? Innovative? Excitable? Provocative? Should it even be writeable? Unfinished? Work-shoppable? Anti-government? Agitprop-able? Will it be modern day, new world, contemporary and new wave? Will it be an historical, throwback, period piece from the old days? Maybe; modernist, existentialist, nihilist but for hedonists? Created by a feminist? Is it pro-choice and anti-war? Is it ahead of the curve and on the next floor? If it is all of these things, would you be thoroughly entertained? Would you want to see a show where it’s just questions, sustained? 


Season: April 23rd - 27th @ 8.45pm (Tues-Sat)

Approximate Run Time: 70 minutes


Cast and Creative Team

Playwright and Performer: Shay Debney

Director: Julia Robertson

Producer: Rachael Adamson & RaCreate

Stage Manager: Noah Cohen-Stoddart


Content Warnings: mature themes, suitable for an adult audience.


Do You Mind? is presented by RaCreate


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