INTERVIEW: Q&A with Mikala Westall | Moving On Inc.

Mikala Westall hasn’t yet moved on from Moving On Inc., and with good reason. It did exceptionally well in its original run as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights/Fringe World 2015 season, garnering great reviews and award nominations. She and The Lost Boys have brought it back for Perth audiences as part of Subiaco Arts Centre’s Subiaco Theatre Festival, so here’s what’s new and different with Mikala and her show. 

What’s different about the show this time around? You’ve got a new cast member, and it’s a new venue, but has anything else changed?

It’s a rare treat for an independent theatre maker to get the chance to revisit a work, to have the opportunity to workshop the script, respond to feedback from previous seasons and improve on a script. We used this chance to workshop the script a fair bit, experiment with new ideas and refine what we were trying to say. Although the story remains largely the same, I think return audience members will recognise slight differences in the script, all for the better in my opinion.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is that this time around we have enlisted the talents of designer Sally Phipps to create our world onstage. For the Fringe season our set consisted of a few well placed boxes, but this time around we are so excited to be able to create a fully realised world for the action to take place in. Without talking it up too much, I think this show is going to look pretty magical.

Have you had any dramaturgical input since the show’s first run, or any new eyes cast a look over the script?

I definitely sent the script out to some writers that I respected before I started any kind of rewrite, but mostly, the script’s major changes came out of workshops with my actors. After nearly a year being part of the Black Swan Emerging Writers Group, I felt a confidence in my abilities that I certainly didn’t have the first time around and I’ve always felt that this play belonged to me and my actors, because they were so influential in the creation of the original script. For me, it was interesting to come back to the script a year later, where I found that the aspects of the play that spoke to me so intensely when I wrote it, didn’t hit quite as hard for me this time around, so the script itself could be viewed from a more objective lens. This meant that I could make edits for the good of the story without feeling like I was sacrificing something really personal.

Mikala Westall_Headhsot2
How was the show received in its first run, and what kind of impact, if any, did that have on the show’s development and its upcoming run?

The show was received really really positively, which as you can imagine, was a great relief for a first time writer and director. We sold out the season, got great reviews and were nominated for a whole host of awards, including Best Theatre and the Martin Sims Award. The result of all this for me was that I felt like my legitimacy as a writer and director was revealed and so had given me the confidence to stand behind the work once more and put it out there to the public. As an artist, as much as you want to be able to use the work to express yourself, knowing that you can reach an audience emotionally, that you can present something they can have an emotional connection to, really makes it all worthwhile.

What made you want to do this show again? Why did you want to be part of Subiaco Arts Centre’s Theatre Festival?

Subi Arts Centre’s Independent Theatre Festival offers independent and emerging artists a platform to move their work outside of places like The Blue Room and into the wider world. They handpick their shows and offer such great support, as well as a new and wider audience base, that it seemed like the best way to revisit the work. And with theatre, you pour so much of yourself into a work, it’s hard to accept that only a certain amount of people will see it. I really wanted to do this show again in order to have that opportunity to rework it, as well as getting more people to see it and share It with me.

After an artistically jam-packed 2015 for you, have you had time to reflect on all your achievements? Have any particular aspects emerged as particularly significant for you as an all-rounder (actor, writer, director)

Yeah, 2015 was a really great year. I was super lucky to have lots of projects to propel me forward as a director and writer and for me, the culmination of a year’s work really cemented my desire to continue to be an all-rounder. My passion as a performer isn’t any less, but I have embraced being able to learn more about other roles, to feel like I can contribute artistically in different ways. I’m also starting to learn that hard lesson of knowing when to say no to things, to giving myself the time to focus on one project and really give it everything I’ve got, and knowing when to take a break. I’m also finding a new passion for artistic endeavours that are more community based, more hands on and a little bit outside of the four walls of theatre.

Do you have any thoughts on representation of women’s voices and perspectives in Perth theatre?

Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Barnaby Pollock and Nicola Bartlett in Moving On Inc. at the Blue Room Theatre for Fringe World 2015.
Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Barnaby Pollock and Nicola Bartlett in Moving On Inc. at the Blue Room Theatre for Fringe World 2015.

I think in Perth we are really lucky to have some amazingly talented women as the driving force behind so many projects, however I think the next step for us is to find that kind of gender parity in the professional realm. I would love to see more female writers and directors represented in some of the bigger companies and I feel that independent theatre is really leading the way in this regard. I think it’s all of our responsibility, men and women alike, to provide positive examples of ways to represent women in theatre, as well as constantly turning the scrutiny back on ourselves, to question the ways we write female characters or perform female characters or represent relationships between men and women onstage. I would love to see a time when we no longer need to think so much about the way women are represented, because it’s become so ingrained in us that it’s totally normal.

Looking ahead after this run of Moving On Inc., what do you have planned for the play’s future?

I would love to get this show on the road, touring regionally around Western Australia. It’s setting in rural Western Australia, the universality of its themes, as well a cast and crew of Western Australians makes me feel that this show would feel very much at home in regional WA. As a writer, I am also open to the fluid and changing nature of the script, always keen for feedback in order to improve on the piece.


Moving On Inc. is on from 22 – 25 June at Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival.

For more information and tickets, visit the Perth Theatre Trust website here.