On the Couch with Clare Mendes

Clare Mendes Arts Review On the CouchWho is Clare Mendes?
I am the creator of St Kilda Stories and the author of Big Dipper – the final piece. I am also creator/producer of Six Degrees in Melbourne, which opens at La Mama Courthouse right after St Kilda Stories. I am an observer of human beings – I find everyone interesting. I am occasionally a dreamer, but usually a strategic thinker. I am a lover of poetry, nature, wine, and my family. I am a writer and a philanthropist, and I am the B in LGBTQI – it stands for Beautiful, and we are.

What would you do di?erently to what you do now?
You know, I think I’m doing everything I want to be doing. I like helping people; I like improving their futures, giving them back their dreams, identifying those tiny opportunities that can lead to something big. I run out of hours to do all the things I want to do – perhaps I could manage my time differently.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by quiet achievers. Sometimes you read about something remarkable that has happened – a major peace agreement brokered, a scientific breakthrough, a refugee camp pulled out of a cholera epidemic – and when you trace the outcome all the way back to its source, often what you’ll find is that there’s just one human being behind the change. Some intelligent, softly spoken, solutions-driven philanthropist who pumped money and resources into the problem out of genuine concern and a desire to make it go away.

What would you do to make a di?erence in the world?
You can’t fix the world, but you can improve your own neighbourhood. Currently 1 in 10 dwellings in Victoria is unoccupied – this pushes up rental prices for the dwellings that are available, which leads to an increase in homelessness. From 1 January 2018 the Victorian government will introduce a vacant residential property tax (VRPT), a 1% capital value charge on homes vacant for at least six months in a year. It’s a starting point, but in its current state the VRPT is flawed – there are too many exemptions to the tax, and unfortunately it is self-reporting. If I could, I would take a red pen to the VRPT and amend it. I would eradicate homelessness.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
That’s a pleasant question. For me, there will never be anything more wondrous than the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I am also a big fan of Montevideo. Closer to home, however, I do like the Grampians.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
If you go walking in the Brisbane Ranges, you’ll come across a native flower called the Spider Orchid – it is absolutely exquisite and worth the drive. For colour and cafes and a refreshing sea breeze, my choice is always St Kilda.

What are you currently reading?
De La Mano, a book of Peruvian poetry. I’m also working through a chess book by Koshnitsky – I’m a poor player, but I enjoy the patterns and intricacies of chess. And I have just finished reading Equus by Peter Shaffer because somehow I’d never read it; I generally have a play script sitting under my bed.

What are you currently listening to?
Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Woody Herman – as I write this, Golden Wedding is going through my head. I’m scribbling notes for a play that is set in this era, but I have always loved Big Band music in any case. Last night I listened to a violin concerto by Philip Glass. Oh, and Uptown Funk at the gym this morning.

Happiness is?
Writing. Exercising. Chasing new opportunities. I have a lot of friends in this city and I like just sitting with them over a coffee and having a good long conversation – no time limit.

What does the future hold for you?
Watching as Melbourne Writers’ Theatre (MWT) continues to grow, and playing an active role in this. MWT serves an important role for this city’s playwrights, and our theatre community is richer because of it. Developing more new shows for MWT, and writing more plays of my own; growing older, wiser, and more patient; and hopefully not having any kind of adverse impact on the world. It would be good to leave it in slightly better shape, if this were at all possible.

A showcase of five original monologues, St Kilda Stories will be presented at the National Theatre: 26 – 30 September as part of the 2017 Melbourne Fringe. For more information, visit: www.nationaltheatre.org.au for details.

Image: Clare Mendes (supplied)