GETTING TO KNOW: PETER COOK

Peter graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2001. Since graduating Peter’s theatre credits have included Cigarettes and Chocolate for the Darlinghurst theatre in Sydney, Europe for QLD Theatre Company, The QLD Premiers Drama Awards for QLD theatre company, various plays at the Sydney Short & Sweet theatre festival, Thore House for Baze in Sydney, The Eisteddfod and Breathing Corpses and The Chain Bridge for The Street Theatre in Canberra, Wet and Dry for the NIDA director’s season, Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome for QLD Theatre Company / Bell Shakespeare, Tender for Metro Arts in Brisbane, and The Removalists for QLD Theatre Company.

His TV credits include All Saints, Young Lions, Terra Nova, Redfern Now, the Gods of Wheat Street, Secrets and Lies and Old School and The Secret Daughter.  His Feature film credits include Danny Deckchair, Down Under Mystery Tour and Beauty and the Beast for American Sci-Fi Channel.  Peter has also featured in a number of award winning short films and won the Warner Brothers QLD New Filmmakers best actor award.

Peter has also worked extensively in the field of Theatre in education over the last ten years writing and devising work with young people and a documentary, Cunnamulla Dreaming, was made about a large scale project he wrote and directed with the community of Cunnamulla in South West QLD.

Image Credit: Alex Vaughan

Peter speaks to The Street as he heads into creative development for Outsider, first showing at The Street Theatre April 14.

YOU HAVE DESCRIBED OUTSIDER AS A STORY EXPLORING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A HUMAN BEING AS WELL AS BEING A TRIBUTE TO THEATRE ITSELF.  PLEASE TELL US MORE.

I think fundamentally all of us face the same questions in our lives. We are all searching for meaning, or deciding that there is no meaning, all of us are just trying to make sense of life in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and most of us, at some point, face a crisis that plays out in myriad ways and we come out the other end of it changed. How we see the world changes and I think that the theatre can play a huge role in changing how people see the world. I want to be changed in one way or another when I go the theatre. So I guess when I think about what I’m trying to explore in the work I want to acknowledge that I’m using the theatre as a medium to do that, and I want the audience to be acknowledged that they’ve come to the theatre in order to have an experience that hopefully they’ll be changed by.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO ACHIEVE IN CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT?

I’d love to have a really workable first draft by the end of the creative development. I’m taking a break from writing as I answer these questions and although I have a heap of material I think there will be a lot of improvisation in development help create the work.

WHAT WORK WILL YOU UNDERTAKE WITH A DRAMATURG?

I’m really looking forward to working with a dramaturg on this piece as I think we’ll be able to find out what we keep and what we lose and find the heart of the story. I’m hoping we can take all of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and arrange them in a really interesting way. No doubt having a dramaturg there will allow me to find new things and maybe even look at new directions. I’m going into the development with a very open mind. It’s about discovery for me.  

YOU HAVE WRITTEN WORK FOR THE THEATRE PREVIOUSLY. WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR PROCESSES AND ARE THERE ANY DIFFERENCES IN YOUR APPROACH TO OUTSIDER?

The previous works that I have written have been with young people and it’s always been based in improvisation. We’ll take a topic and improvise scenes around that topic and I’ll record the improvisations, go home and write out the scenes and eventually find a through line that ties the work together into a narrative. It’s different being the director / dramaturg creating a piece than it is to write from scratch as you have stimulus and actors to bounce off when you’re directing / devising. The writing process for me for this piece is kind of scattergun as I write scenes or moments and trust that working with a dramaturg, we’ll be able to piece it together. So in a sense it will be a similar process but we’re starting with a script as opposed to just a bunch of ideas.

WHAT DOES THE FIRST SEEN PROGRAM OFFER YOU AS AN ACTOR, DIRECTOR AND A PLAYWRIGHT?

First Seen is a great opportunity for me to put the work on the floor and see how it unfolds. It’s the first time I’ll be performing something I’ve written so that’s exciting and kind of freeing because I don’t need to tip-toe around the script. If something isn’t working or needs more work I’m just free to get rid of things without worrying about upsetting anyone. As I said earlier it’s a chance to explore and discover and develop the work. It’s an opportunity to be really creative.

WHAT ARE YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR WRITING A NEW WORK FOR THEATRE?

I guess I don’t have any guiding principles apart from trusting my instinct and making sure that it’s my authentic voice.

WHAT KIND OF THEATRE DO YOU WANT TO MAKE?

I’d like to make theatre that entertains people, makes them laugh, makes them cry and that changes them. I think all theatre is political, even if that isn’t the intention so it’s about creating something that touches people, that allows us to have a moment in space and time that encourages a sense of shared humanity and that makes people think about the way they see the world.

OVER THE PAST DECADE, YOU HAVE WORKED AS A THEATRE MAKER AND EDUCATOR. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS?

I’ve loved going to schools in regional areas and working with young people. It’s really rewarding. I’d have to say the highlight was creating Cunnamulla Dreaming. I’ll never forget that and I think all the students involved will remember it for the rest of their lives as well. That experience and those young people hold a special place in my heart.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

I think just talking to people -hearing their stories -is always so inspiring creatively. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to appreciate that everyone has a story to tell and that we must never look at someone else’s life through our own experience and when you can do that and really listen to people it’s amazing how inspiring we all are.  

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

I’m watching After Life by Ricky Gervais on Netflix and it’s about finding hope in our darkest moments, so that’s kind of inspiring even though the show at times is hard to watch, and I’ve just finished a book called The Courage to be Disliked which really is about just learning the art of acceptance – I think that will be a lifetime project for me.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s