By Arne Sjostedt
When we found Australian actor and playwright Peter Cook, he was sitting in a small booth at Tilley’s Divine Cafe. It was a fitting place to meet this thought provoking and creative artist. And no doubt he felt right at home among the espresso and jazz piping through the celebrated and busy landmark cafe.
The topic for discussion was The Street’s premiere of Breaking the Castle, a transformative play that pulls audiences of all walks of life into its vortex, and challenges them to recognise the things that connect us.
Plotting the journey of a person caught up in the pain of addiction and depression, despite the heavy subject matter, Cook focussed on creating a work that he would enjoy watching.
“The play is raw and visceral, taking things from a point of truth, and the presentation of universalises,” he says. “It’s a real hard hitting show with lots of laughs that will make you cry as well. And if you make an audience cry as well as laugh, you’ve done the job.”
About struggle and the redemptive power of life, directed by Caroline Stacey, Cook both wrote and stars in the play. Having lived in Kings Cross for some time, he draws from years working as a professional actor and teaching in remote communities to deliver his message.
“What I hope for the writing is that it encapsulates a large part of the human experience though one person’s story.”
It is an important allegory for our contemporary global landscape, still frighteningly furnished by fears of otherness.
Using the tale as an opportunity to prompt us to think underneath our personal differences and challenges, driven by a desire to break down the structures that separate people, Cook hopes his play will bring viewers closer to an awareness of the things that make us the same.
“We are sold such a lie by the media, by politicians, by churches, by these big institutions that we tend to give so much reverence to. We are sold this lie that we are different, we are separate. The human experience is not. We are all in this together,” he says.
“The more we realise that, the more compassion we have for each other, without labelling each other, the more we can come to understand each other and move towards something that is a little bit more in harmony with what that experience is. Because I think we’ve got a lot more in common than we have that separates us.”
Breaking the Castle presents the kind of optimistic vision driven by an experience and celebration of the difficult lessons of life.
“It’s about so much, but at the end of the day it’s a story of hope. No matter what we’ve been through, we can get to the other side. And as human beings, we are all remarkable.”
Breaking the Castle plays Street Two, from 28 February - 14 March 2020. Visit www.thestreet.org.au for tickets and more information.
Contains coarse language, drug references and mature themes. Recommended 15+