From the daring and imaginative mind of Will O’Mahony (Tonsils + Tweezers, The Mars Project, Great White), comes a magical story celebrating children, difference, and the depths of parental love. An epic tale about pianos, prodigies, penguins and pandas, Coma Land asks, if it takes ten thousand hours to master something difﬁcult, then why can it take a lifetime to accept something simple. We recently interviewed Will on his experience and creative processes as theatre maker.
You were first involved with Black Swan as an actor through the then emerging artist program, The HotBed Ensemble, in 2009. How has your career evolved since then?
It's just been a matter of diversifying my skills set. Sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity. I still love acting and see it as the foundation of my practice but if you're trying to work in the theatre across the calendar it helps to have more strings to your bow.
You are an actor, writer and director. Does one craft inform the other? Do you have a favourite? Why?
They absolutely inform one another but I try to resist labels. When asked what I do, I prefer to say I write and act and direct. We live in a world that prefers you to specialise but I'll be jumping between all three for as long as I am allowed.
You are also directing Coma Land. You did the same for your play in 2016, Tonsils & Tweezers. Is this about dedication to the work, trusting another director with the work or that you just aren’t ready to let the baby out with the bathwater?
The boring answer is I enjoy directing and trained as a director. I love working with a stage language - actors, space, design, sound, lights. Directing the work means I'm able to move quickly. If a line needs adjusting, I adjust it. If an actor has a great suggestion, we can use it immediately. But simply there's just something immensely satisfying about enduring the long lonely writing time and then being given the chance to collaborate with actors and creatives in bringing it to life.
This is a co-production with Performing Lines WA. Tell us about the development of Coma Land and how Performing Lines became involved in the project?
Performing Lines and I have worked together for three years now. We toured my first show Great White and after that they said, "What next?"
I said, "There's this play sitting in a draw called Coma Land but it's for seven actors and so isn't exactly tour friendly." They read it anyway, loved it and here we are.
Coma Land has been in development for four years and I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to chuck it in. As an artist, you need people like Fiona De Garis and Rachael Whitworth at Performing Lines to believe in your work - especially when it's rough and flawed and clumsy.
Any advice for emerging artists? Who inspired you growing up? What made you want to have a career in this industry?
Read books, go walking, allow yourself to be bored. We live in a time where so much stuff is there ready to stimulate us - apps, podcasts, tv, social media - that we rarely get the chance to follow our own thoughts. This takes effort but the rewards are great. Other than that, show up, take your opportunities, find people who are better than you and say yes before you feel you're ready.