Interview with Angela Betzien
Your play is set in range of overseas and exotic locations, as well as being set in ‘the pho infused streets of Cabramatta.’ Can you tell us a bit about how you chose the locations, and which one were you drawn to write first?
I can proudly say that I’ve spent time in all the locations in the play… except Cabramatta, I should probably go there on the weekend.
I once rode a bike down El Camino De Le Muerte (the Road of Death) in Bolivia. I had a bad case of gastro in a German run hotel in Coroico, a town located on the edge of the Amazon. Last year I travelled to Chilpansingo, a barrio of Tijuana in Mexico and I’ve spent many hours eating cake in the cafes of Kruezberg, Berlin.
Primarily the play is set in Sydney. I moved here a year and a half ago and I wanted to write a kind of love/hate letter to the city. It’s a beautiful city but it can be a nasty, greedy, seedy, selfish place. Sydney is very much a character in this play.
Mortido – what does the word mean, and where does it come from? – has its meaning changed for you in the writing of the play?
Mortido is a term sometimes used in Freudian psychoanalysis which refers to the energy of the death instinct. While I’m conscious Freudian psychoanalysis should be viewed through a sharp critical lense, I was fascinated by the idea of Mortido and I wanted to write a play that explored the notion of a death instinct, a destructiveness, a cruelty in both individuals and systems, specifically capitalism. If capitalism were personified, he would be a cruel, criminal, coked up sociopath hurtling at break neck speed down the road of death.
How has the play changed since you initially brought it to us, and since being workshopped?
Radically. Initially I was interested in the relationship between journalism, cocaine and capitalism but I think I was biting off far more than I could chew. The journalism element had to be extracted and I’m now planning to work that through another play. Mortido has been through four mammoth drafts and I’m positive that by the end of the National Play Festival there will be a fifth or even a sixth…
You’ve worked with Leticia Caceres (your director) on many of your plays now. Can you tell us what it is about your writer/director relationship that has proven so successful?
Leticia and I began collaborating after graduating from Uni. After thirteen years making theatre together we’ve developed a really strong aesthetic as well as a kind of short hand. More than anything the strength of our collaboration is our shared politics. We believe in making theatre for the same reasons.