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Adelaide actress pens an 'Australian tragedy'


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Adelaide actress Elena Carapetis describes her playwriting debut as her version of an Australian tragedy.

The Good Son, which opens at The Bakehouse Theatre next month, combines elements of Greek tragedy with contemporary playwriting, reflecting Carapetis’ own Greek-Australian heritage.

The result, she says, is “completely and utterly Australian”.

“It’s as Australian as a David Williamson play or a Ray Lawler play in that it uses the language that Australians use.

“I’m tapping into an Australian voice that isn’t heard much in film and theatre.

“It’s the voice of people who live in Adelaide who aren’t glamorous, who aren’t CEOs … they are ordinary people, but the events that happen in their lives are completely epic.”

Actress-writer Elena Carapetis.

Actress-writer Elena Carapetis.

Carapetis has an impressive acting resume. She stars in the new film One-Eyed Girl, and has previously appeared in movies such as Dead Europe and Look Both Ways, as well as recent State Theatre Company productions Othello and Between Two Waves.

She says she was inspired to try her hand at writing after being asked, as an actress, to take part in the creative development of other playwrights’ work.

“I really loved the process of developing a play and found I had an affinity with storytelling, then I sort of got the chutzpah to wonder if I would try to write my own play.”

It took her five years to finish The Good Son. She then had to work up the courage to show the script to her director friend Corey McMahon. Carapetis says she was afraid he might think it was rubbish; he didn’t, instead declaring that he wanted to direct it.

McMahon – who most recently directed Eh Joe in the State Theatre Company’s Beckett Triptych during the Adelaide Festival – has described Carapetis’s writing as “assured, complex, multi-layered and compelling”.

Carapetis believes the mother-child dynamic at the play’s centre has universal resonance.

Renato Musolino plays Frank, the son of Greek immigrant divorcee Meda (Eugenia Fragos). While he loves his mother and shares a close bond with her, Frank feels suffocated and wants a different life. It seems the beautiful Ana may be the key to his freedom – but Meda harbours a secret that could prove disastrous.

The story is inspired by true events.

“There were things that were happening around Adelaide that filtered through to me through friends and family and colleagues and it sparked this fire in me of really wanting to say something about what was going on, so I started writing,” Carapetis says.

“It was an impulse, an urge to write about what I was feeling. But once that started, I really wanted to see it to its fruition.”

The characters aren’t based on actual people – more an amalgam of many – but the actual events shaped the ideas and themes of the script.

“On a very domestic level, it’s about obligations that we have to one another and the different obligations that we have to partners, family and friends – and when those worlds intersect, how do you put the love you have for one person above another?”

The Good Son takes its title from a song by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, which Carapetis was listening to when she was writing it.

“There’s a lyric, ‘and he curses his virtue like an unclean thing’ – and that, for me, was the hook I really needed to start me on a trajectory of what this play is about.”

Determined to push herself to the limits, she wrote the play so that it takes place in real time, with no scene changes and just one set – the lounge-room of a home in Torrensville. It means characters can’t just leave when situations become uncomfortable or confrontational, and each event that unfolds has a domino effect.

“The play starts about 7.15pm on a Sunday morning and by an hour and 20 minutes later, it is done,” Carapetis says.

“I really wanted to create a play where there was nowhere for me to hide.”

Crediting the cast (which also includes Adriana Bonaccurso and Demitrios Sirilas) for embracing the challenges of the work, and McMahon for helping bring her script to the stage, Carapetis says she is grateful to be part of Adelaide’s supportive theatre community

“I’m glad I’m here making theatre. It’s a really exciting time for making theatre in Adelaide  and I’m proud to be part of that.”

The Good Son will play at The Bakehouse Theatre from April 8-25.



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