Sheridan Harbridge has a glass of champagne in her hand two days before rehearsals for 44 Sex Acts In One Week takes a 10-day break.
This is the third attempt to stage the play after COVID stopped the earlier seasons.
The play was written as a play by Ngunnawal writer David Finnigan, but during a Zoom reading, Harbridge thought it would be a good radio play to record during the pandemic.
She thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be making the sounds and letting the audience imagine the sex rather than having to put it in front of their faces?”
When the lockdown lifted, she and her colleagues started staging 44 Sex Acts as a radio play, using fruit to do all the romantic scenes.
When asked about the challenges for her as director, she says, “Well, fruit is very messy. It’s so funny, and there’s all this ridiculous sex in it as part of the Romcom.”
She says it has been a pleasure to direct the show because it combines her two favourite things: “high-brow art and low-brow art running at the same time.”
Written before the pandemic, the play is about an apocalypse hurtling towards the world and this runs in parallel with a cheesy romcom. “That’s why it’s so delightful and tantalizing to stage.”
Her big decision was trying to decide how much to emphasisethe pandemic side of the play. “How much escapism do you give audiences, or do you expose what we’ve been through and give them nihilism.”
Harbridge researched what English audiences wanted after the end of WWII and discovered it was Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, a comedy about death.
In this “spirit”, she says, “We don’t want to ignore what we’ve been through but we want to release the pressure and laugh.”
Harbridge likes to be “completely stretched” as a writer, actor and director.
She says she is a really good dramaturg, and is always doing “brand new Australian works”.
“I’m really proud I have been seen as an asset in creating new work. That’s the most interesting art to me. I have a lot of energy and that’s why I have had such an amazing run. That’s my itch that’s got to be scratched.”
Most of all, she says, “I want audiences to be delighted byhow playful theatre can be and life should be.”
Jan 12-16. Seymour Centre, Cnr City Rd &, Cleveland St, Chippendale. $39-$55+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com