Director’s Note: Janine Watson, NEARER THE GODS

2 Mar 2022

Thank you for coming to the theatre. This production of David Williamson’s NEARER THE GODS has been waiting in the wings for two years. My excitement to direct it has only grown in that time. Since it was first programmed, we’ve endured seismic change. First came the catastrophic fires of 2019/2020. Then the global pandemic. A time of deep uncertainty, grief, fear, loss of stability. A not knowing. Few answers. A new way of being. A new world.

In 1684 London was emerging from a time of darkness. The city was being rebuilt after fires ravaged it. Citizens were tentatively living side by side with illness after the worst years of the plague were past but disease was a harsh reality and daily life was forced to resume despite that.

The times we live in are never really exceptional. Human beings have evolved throughout history by overcoming the worst of times. Maybe the particular disaster that defines a generation is different to the last, but how we respond as a species is reasonably consistent. We unite. We revolt. We rebel. We retreat. We love. We fight. We are forced to research, test and discover new ways for humankind to continue. Many emerge from the bleakest of times with a greater thirst for understanding than ever before. We have a primal instinct to perpetuate to save ourselves. So we keep going. I once had a great artist say to me ‘Sharpen your axe on the hardest stone’ – Acuity and awareness are sharpened through difficulty, not ease.

In 1684 the world was standing on the edge of the Enlightenment. Natural philosophers were unravelling the mysteries of the universe. Knowledge we now take for granted was once literally unknowable. Brilliant minds leading us to light after dark… this is the world of NEARER THE GODS. Except the story David Williamson tells is based on the true one – the one where these brilliant minds are also fallibly human. Susceptible to the same fears, jealousies and petty arguments as everyone who ever existed. We also have a primal instinct to kill others so we can live. In this case, not literally. But if someone else’s ideas had to die in order that another could have lasting legacy? So. Be. It.

Our rehearsal room has been full of laughter, great conversation, and wonderful ideas. David’s writing has been the breeding ground for that. Researched to the hilt for accuracy, yet leaving just enough space for the universal law of creative license. I love the wit, the pace, the heart, the science.

I want to thank David for the joy of working with his play. Thank Mark, Claire and the whole ensemble team for having faith in this production and keeping it on the burner until it could make it on stage. And for employing reason to keep planning when uncertainty ruled. You see, that’s what is needed to face the future. To come up against human ego and the most dire of circumstances. Faith and reason. A couple of humans who believe in the well-being of generations to come and are willing to put their livelihood on the line to fight for it. I hope you enjoy the Sydney premiere of NEARER THE GODS.

Director Janine Watson

NEARER THE GODS is on stage 4 Mar – 23 Apr.