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Lachlan Philpott

Playwright of The Chosen

Did you already have the idea of The Chosen before it was commissioned?

I had been doing a lot of research in relation to alien abductions and the idea of encounters with aliens, and was interested in it from the angle of young people. I felt like it was a different angle.  The idea had been brewing away in my head for a while.

And was the interest only professional, or personal too?

Both, I guess. I’m kind of interested in those big questions that we all ask at some point - I think we’ve all become very obsessed with looking down and looking at devices, and we’re not necessarily looking up. It’s interesting when you talk to a lot of people who’ve had an encounter, one of the things they say is “look up”. Which is simple, but you begin to realise how little you look up at the sky. And I think that question of ‘what else is out there’ is a very interesting one. There’s so much material online; there seems to be endless amounts of evidence of the ubiquity of other life forms, and yet we don’t seem to be particularly open to those possibilities. And, simultaneously, I’m interested in the rise of Christianity in our culture - how do people maintain their faith when it appears that things aren’t going particularly well in the world. And how do they maintain their faith in that and at the same time have such a denial of other life forms?

That’s interesting - how do you see the relationship between religion and the belief in extraterrestrial life?

I think for me there is far more evidence of the existence of aliens than there is the existence of god, because for a start there’s an awful lot of people’s actual encounters - there’s a lot of video footage and compelling reasons why there would be other life out there if you look at the size of our solar system and others. So I think for me there’s certainly an interesting parallel and a lot of questions about what it means to believe. And I kind of wonder - this might sound really negative - but because I write a lot of theatre for young audiences as well, I wonder quite a lot about what it must be like to be growing up in a world where there seems to be so much consistent doom and gloom about the inevitability of the destruction of the world - in the sense that we’ve got climate change happening, we’ve got rising sea levels, we’ve got the world population increasing at such a huge rate that it’s not sustainable for us all to live and you kind of think, what must it be like to be actually growing up in that time and know that that’s what coming. There are just so many questions that it brings as well.

What can you reveal about lead character Freya in that sense?

I was really keen to explore the ambiguity of never really being sure whether she’s the girl who has really had an experience with aliens or whether she’s someone who doesn’t fit in, who’s looking desperately for a way to be different, and to be special. And that’s a question that we all encounter at some point in our life too. We’re all brought into this world and told that in some way we’re special. And there’s a kind of revelation at some point that, in one way, yes, we’re all special and we can go along with that line, but in another way, there’s a point in our lives where we all realise that we’re actually just another creature that’s trying to live on the earth, and actually there’s so many of us that we can’t all really be special. There’s that kind of growing up moment for her that isn’t necessarily pretty. And it does kind of deal with being the outsider, the idea of the alien within the world that we live in - what is it like to be the person who’s different or the person who doesn’t fit in, the person who has to move constantly? And that kind of character is somebody who isn’t always that appealing.

Why did you choose to have Freya self-narrate the story?

I was interested in writing a play that has that kind of character as a protagonist, but also somebody who’s not a reliable narrator - we start to realise about halfway through the play that in fact what Freya’s telling us might not be true. There’s a lot of very earnest shows for young audiences where they never actually have to deal with the fact that maybe they’re not being told the truth. So that whole question of truth is really important, I think. Particularly when the material actually comes as an outcome of interviews where I was talking to people about something that they believed was true, which was their experience with aliens, and whether or not that’s true for me didn’t necessarily matter because it was their truth, and I think that’s important.

The Chosen opens Wednesday 17 September, 7pm at the Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre. Buy tickets here.