Originally performed as part of the 2013 season at Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, Lally Katz’s one woman show Stories I Want to Tell You in Person is now part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. As one of Australia’s most acclaimed playwrights (with her most recent production Timeshare premiering at Malthouse to rave reviews), Katz made her acting debut in Stories I Want to Tell You in Person after writing the show for Belvoir Theatre when they rejected her previous show. Adapted for the screen by director Erin White (ABC TV’s It’s a Date and At Home with Julia), Katz has bought her show to the big screen and it is sure to charm audiences just as she did when it was on stage.
Adapted from the original stage show, Stories I Want to Tell You in Person has been commissioned by ABC Arts (who will be screening the film in two half hour blocks) and produced by Matchbox Pictures. “It’s quite true to the stage show a lot,” points out Katz. “In that it’s still set in a theatre but then it departs from the theatre into location scenes. So it’s mainly just about me. I play myself, which is more challenging than you think it would be, and is a story set over about a year of me trying to work out how to have both love and writing in my life and the sort of things I try to do to get there – for example I find out that I’m cursed from these psychics and I’m trying to make things work with this guy I’ve met and I feel like if I pay off these curses then it will work. It’s basically a quest to have it all.”
When it came to writing the original show, Katz was inspired by New York psychics. “I was really obsessed with these psychics, partly in a life way where they’re these New York psychics who are shop front fortune tellers and real characters. But I was obsessed with them in both a personal way as well and asked myself ‘are they my saviours’? As soon as I was in there first talking to them, the atmosphere changed and I was suddenly in the story. And I find that sometimes in life, you’re like ‘oh my god, I’m in the story of my life right now’. So while Belvoir rejected the show she was going to write for them, it was this ejection that helped Stories I Want to Tell You in Person come to life. After talking to her agent about her desire to perform in something, Katz realised that “whenever I take characters from life, I become them for a while and I talk as them to get to know their voice.”
After discussions with Belvoir and Malthouse, her show became a reality and was programmed before she had even written it. For Katz, the joy of the show was to get the opportunity to communicate directly with an audience and exchange energy with them and see what that was like.
As Katz is not one who can sit still for long, she has many exciting projects in the works. First up is a film version of her play Neighbourhood Watch (which premiered at Belvoir in 2011), which is being directed by Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Little Women), while she is also developing some different ideas for television and has more shows that she is writing. To build on her screenwriting skills, Katz is even planning on spending some time in Los Angeles to further her screenwriting experience.
Just like the rest of Melbourne, Katz has her top picks for MIFF 2015. Notable picks include Sucker (directed by Ben Chessell and featuring comedian Lawrence Leung), The Daughter (directed by Simon Stone after his adaptation of The Wild Duck which played at Belvoir and Malthouse) and Holding The Man (directed by Neil Armfield).
“I think the film offers a question that a lot of people have in life – how do you balance work and love and how and why do we stop ourselves from getting the things we dream about,” she notes when asked about how she thinks the movie will relate to the audience. “While it is my story, when I did the stage show, a lot of people found it quite similar to their own life quests where you try to have everything. I guess we also all know what it’s like trying to make a relationship work and we all know what it’s like to be striving for something in your career. So even though it’s about these psychics and is a surreal film in some ways, it’s also about really common themes. Love is always a common theme – everyone carries around the torture of love.”