Thomas Sainsbury is one of those indefatigable writers who seem destined for great theatrical things; even his name has a theatrical ring to it. He comes from New Zealand, has written and/or directed approximately 15 plays in the past few years, and although all my late night Googling has failed to reveal his exact age, he would appear to be young to have been responsible for so many well-received plays.

Oh yeah – not only has he taken his plays overseas but he's part of the team behind an already-aired television series (Super City) with the possibility of another to follow up.

So what kind of stuff does Mr Sainsbury write? Mostly, it would appear, it is dark and funny. If you were quick you might have seen the small and quite excellent production of Tom Sainsbury's The Mall earlier this year by new Melbourne theatre company Mellow Yellow Productions.

Mellow Yellow and Albion Productions are now about to bring us the very timely Christmas Monologues, a play about the variety of impacts Christmas has on a variety of characters

Thomas SainsburyWhen did you write The Christmas Monologues and what thoughts/feelings prompted you to write it?
I wrote The Christmas Monologues in London is 2008. There were a whole bunch of us Kiwis over there and we wanted to put on a show. At the time I was working at a costume store in Covent Garden. I would plot and write the monologues by hand in amongst the plastic, tacky costumes. I was also inspired by the costumes and certain characters came from them.

What do you like/dislike most about Christmas?
I dislike a lot of it. Isn’t that terrible? I dislike the commercialism of it most. Useless, disposable presents for the sake of getting and giving presents. What I like most is the peace and quiet in the city. No cars on the road, everyone relaxed. Peace and quiet.

Tell us a bit about some of the pros and cons of writing a series of monologues as opposed to writing a narrative where the characters paths cross and their lives are affected by the others.
The pros for the original production was I only needed to rehearse with one actor at a time. Multiple actors can be difficult when everyone lives so far apart. I also love monologues because you can paint a whole world with words. With dialogue driven pieces people are seeing exactly what’s happening. With a good monologue you’re taken into a whole new world within your mind. What’s difficult, however, is sustaining an audiences attention with one person talking. It’s much, much easier to watch people conversing and take in what’s happening. It’s much harder to write a good monologue.

Are any of the characters based on real people?
Not really. The turkey farmer character is based on men I used to know growing up in rural New Zealand. The others were influenced by tidbits I picked up here and there. Stories people told me. Visits to old folks homes.

Tell us a little about a couple of your favourite characters from Christmas Monologues and what they have to say about Christmas.
My favourite would be the monologue about a geriatric nurse who has to work on Christmas day. I like the twist in the story but I also like that it’s commenting on how neglectful we are to our elderly. So many of them aren’t visited on Christmas day. Depressing!

I also like the Christmas Cracker monologue. This is about a ruthless small business woman. I like how forthright yet evil she is. I also like the commentary about the commercial side of Christmas. And how all this junk, like Christmas Crackers, is usually made in China.

Overall, how would you describe the mood of the thing?
Dark and acerbic. Twisted and grotesque. Funny, hopefully!

It's been a little while now and you've written much since... how fresh is this play in your mind?
It is honestly one of my favourites. I’m really happy with it. And that’s saying something. I am usually quick to move on from a text, disgusted at all the flaws. But this one . . . It’s still pretty fresh.

Where else have you taken the play, and how has it gone down in other countries?
It’s been around New Zealand and in two different venues in the UK. I think some monologues resonate with different audiences. The Old Folks home one is pretty universal, however.

Have you been very hands-on with most productions, or have you been involved solely as the writer?
I usually direct the first production of a play. I like to work things out in the rehearsal room. That’s where my next drafts come from. I can’t see how a script can be finished until you’ve nutted everything out with actors.

What about this Steph Lee person, the driving force behind this upcoming production – do you have much faith in her and her team doing the play justice?
I have the utmost faith in Steph Lee. She is a dynamo. And she’ll definitely do it justice.

Finally, what other projects have you been working on lately. I think I've heard about a television series – is that another series of Super City?
We find out about the second series of Super City in eight days. So fingers crossed. I am currently working on a new Christmas Show. This one is called A Krazy Kristmas. Similar tone to the monologues, but all multiple characters in each scene. I’ve also got many film scripts bubbling away. But they take a while.

Broken Mirror Studios
2C Staley Street. Brunswick
12th to the 17th Of December


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