by Benito Di Fonzo. (Metro, Sydney Morning Herald 24/11/06)
“I must sound like a crazy man,” says actor turned playwright Josh Lawson of his improv-inspired technique.
“I sit at home and improvise the characters aloud by myself. I’m speaking four or five different characters. It must sound like I’m having a dinner party but I’m not, I’m a lonely, lonely man.”
While the skills that earned Josh a NIDA Fellowship studying improv in Los Angeles have become his trademark through ‘Thank God You’re Here,’ he’s forged a parallel career as a playwright following the success ‘Shakespearealism,’ a winner of Naked Theatre Companies ‘Write Now’ competition staged earlier in this year.
“I was sitting in the audience opening night; nervous, scared, excited, looking at the audience react and seeing that they were liking it. That was absolutely one of the highlights of my career, so I continued writing hoping I would feel that again.”
He’ll get his chance at the opening of ‘Plays: By Himself.’ A double entendre I take it?
“What’s sad is that was my idea, the title. They wanted ‘A Night With Josh Lawson,’ that was just too arrogant.”
‘Plays: By Himself’ will include the aforementioned ‘Shakespearealism,’ which tells the story of Ralph Shakespeare, the failed realist playwright brother of William. The play is less a dig at the Bard than Josh’s contemporaries.
“It’s taking the piss out of realism more than it is Shakespeare. I just got sick and tired of reading new plays by writers who are desperate to recreate realism, and in doing so use this bastardised mannered syntax that doesn’t really make much sense, [as if] half finished sentences means it’s gritty realism, writing in ‘uhms’ and ‘ahs’ and leaving the actor no freedom to have any kind of original stimulus because you’ve written in coughs, sneezes and breaths.”
Another contemporary pet hate is swearing.
“Jesus, I swear in my life more than anyone really. I’m working with the navy at the moment and I match them, but I do think that new, particularly young male writers, swear too much for shock value and attempted grittiness, so in the night you’ll hear one ‘shit.’ I’ve [also] invented the word ‘fruck.’”
The show also includes his fast-paced comedy ‘The 11 O’Clock,’ in which a psychiatrist attempts to treat a patient that believes he is a psychiatrist treating a patient who believes he is a psychiatrist.
“It’s ten minutes long but if feel like two if it goes at speed. ‘The 11 O’Clock’ is a tribute to Vaudeville really, I’m a big fan of Abbot & Costello.”
Tony and Peter or Bud and Lou?
“Well, both are farcical really aren’t they? My dad was a fan of Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, it was an attempt to write a modern version . That’s were it came from, but you can read whatever you want into it; breakdown of communication, peoples’ fascination with therapy, self-help. At it’s heart it’s a blatant duel of words.”
Absurd word play is at the heart of Josh’s style.
“I’m a massive fan of word play, I think writers aren’t doing enough of it. I love watching clever wordy pieces and I hope I’m not the only one, but we’ll find out soon enough. I might be busking on Pitt St. Mall in six months.”
The third play ‘Work In Progress’ was still literally what its title implies at the time of talking to Josh. It’s a play within a play within a play, the protagonist realising he’s in a play written by someone else, who in turn is also. At it’s centre is a writer introducing his parents to his latest female character.
“It’s kind of Charlie Kaufman, in the play I refer to the Escher drawing of a hand drawing a hand. The original thing was because I didn’t write women very well. That’s where that idea came from: what if I was to write a women and then introduce her to my friends? What would they think of her? It’s going to be a real head-spin.”
Assuming its finished?
“It’s great isn’t it? I’ve already got an out-clause. If people go ‘Jesus the ending was a bit rubbish’ I can go ‘well it was a Work In Progress, I did warn you.’”
“Plays: By Himself – Three Short Plays by Josh Lawson.”
Directed by Tamara Cook and Toby Schmitz
Old Fitzroy, Woolloomooloo. November 29 – December 23