On the Couch with Elizabeth Walley

Elizabeth-Walley-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Elizabeth Walley?
Elizabeth Walley is a daughter, sister, mother, partner, friend, creator – an actor/writer/director who matches pegs, avoids the cracks and loves the creative arts.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Stay more fully in the present. It’s easy to become lost in ‘what-ifs’ but life is rich in the now, in the fullness of being in the moment.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by individuals who courageously stand against the patriarchy to end the violence and misogyny that cripples us all; Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, Rosie Batty, Brittany Higgins and the many other women who risk all to add their voices to the cry for cultural change and social justice. As Grace Tame so eloquently expressed it ‘Our voice is our power.’

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Continue to make theatre that speaks back to power and addresses the injustices of our time. Every single voice can make a difference. Cultural change begins in our families, in our friendship groups and in our communities and we can all play a part.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Tidal River, Wilson’s Promontory (Wamoon). For the last twelve years we have camped there with my brother’s family for a week in January. It’s astonishingly beautiful country, the traditional land of the Bunurong, Gunaikurnai and Boon Wurrung people, and we spend our time reading, swimming, surfing, eating and sharing stories… or huddled together shielding from the wind and rain! The weather’s notoriously unreliable but the land is stunning and there’s something very special about sharing a tent and preparing food under the stars, even in a gale!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Always a drive along the Great Ocean Road. It’s a spectacular strip of coastline and a great introduction to the beauty of this state. In town, I take visitors to the NGV or to the Heidi Museum of Modern Art, once the home of John and Sunday Reid who were instrumental figures in the development of modern art and literature in Australia and benefactors of artists such as Joy Hester, Sidney Nolan, Mirka Moira and Charles Blackman. Then coffee and gnocchi at Pellegrini’s in Bourke Street, and a show at fortyfivedownstairs, Theatreworks or La Mama – all champions of independent theatre in Melbourne who offer a platform for new writing and diverse voices.

What are you currently reading?
My script! The Trauma Project opens at fortyfivedownstairs on Thursday 18 March, and I need to learn my lines!! However, I have a brace of books awaiting my attention and once the show’s up, I can’t wait to dive in. The City of Trees by Sophie Cunningham, The Thinking Woman by Julienne van Loon, The Cherry Picker’s Daughter by Kerry Reed-Gilbert and The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. I’m also interested in revisiting the What Katy Did series of books by Susan Coolidge. I read them obsessively as a child – I even drew up a table to record the date and number of times read – and I refer to this in The Trauma Project. I’m curious to discover why these books were so engaging for my ten-year old self and wonder if they still have relevance for young readers today.

What are you currently listening to?
The Italian Cooking and Dining Playlist on Spotify when I’m cooking or for predinner atmosphere, and any time’s a good time for Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Annie Lennox, or more recently Jorja Smith. I also confess, I do love a good true crime podcast!

Happiness is?
Globally, happiness is a society in which women move freely without fear of assault, binaries are rejected as limiting and restrictive, creative artists are valued and properly remunerated for their cultural contribution, the disenfranchised are heard, the silenced have voice, and the traditional owners of our lands are respected and esteemed for their wisdom and knowledge. Personally, for me happiness is also time spent with family and friends, hanging out together, sharing a laugh or a cry, good food prepared with love, a crisp white wine, inspiring live theatre and a clear blue sky on a bright, sunny day.

What does the future hold for you?
I hope to continue an activist arts practice that offers women an opportunity to speak their truth and share their experience. To inspire others to agitate for change, to maintain the current momentum created by #metoo, #March4Justice, #countingdeadwomen and all the other movements against patriarchal violence. I’m also interested in working in the space where voice and movement intersect beyond the boundaries of traditional theatre, and in collaborating further with inspiring creatives who spark my imagination and keep me excited about live performance and the possibilities of art.

Elizabeth is the writer and director of, and performs in, the premiere season of The Trauma Project at Fortyfivedownstairs: 18 – 28 March 2021. For more information, visit: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com for details.

Image: Elizabeth Walley (supplied)