Rosie Niven on Directing Bright Half Life | Stage Sips

Director Rosie Niven has made a name for herself in the Australian independent theatre scene through an impressive portfolio of work centred on LGBTQIA+ and female-driven issues.

Coming off directing 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, which saw multiple sold out runs in 2021 and 2022, Niven’s newest directorial project, Bright Half Life, is making its debut as part of Sydney’s Pride Amplified World Pride program of events.

Read Toasting Aussie Theatre’s review of Bright Half Life here.

I sat down with Niven to hear all about the production, her journey into directing and of course her taste in wine!

What made you want to be a director, and how did you go about establishing yourself as one?

I’ve loved the theatre since I started school, when Drama was introduced as a fun performance-based activity to let out all your energy before you went home for the day. I thought this love that I had meant I wanted to be an actor, and I desperately tried to pursue that for many years. It wasn’t until University that I realised being a Director was even an option, when I signed up to Direct an Arts Revue on a whim. From the moment I tried it, I knew that it was for me – being able to take a narrative from page to stage and coordinate all the elements of that narrative was so exciting. It’s like a puzzle. I haven’t really stopped since that first show, and am constantly looking for new ways to share a story with an audience, and bring its inner magic to life. 

I won’t lie, establishing yourself as a Director is really hard. There are no auditions you can go to, to prove that you’re right for the role. You have to make the roles that you want. I was incredibly lucky to be supported by Theatre Travels to start telling the stories that I wanted to tell, and from that point, it was about putting myself out there wherever I could, and when the opportunities didn’t arise, making them myself.

What does it mean to you to be producing a queer theatre show during and for World Pride?

It is so, so special. When I Directed the sold-out runs of 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche as part of Mardi Gras in 2021 and 2022, I truly didn’t expect the incredible reception. I had many audience members coming up to me to tell me that this was the first time that they had ever seen themselves represented on stage, and what that meant to them to see queer women being authentically themselves. During that first year that we staged 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, we were one of the only events in the Mardi Gras season that was by and for queer women. Unfortunately, that statistic hasn’t changed all that much. We need to be elevating the voices and experiences of queer women all the time, but especially during a pivotal event such as WorldPride. This is something I didn’t have when I was younger and coming to terms with my sexuality – I never ever saw the narratives of queer women promoted outside of tokenistic or harmful representations. If one queer person comes to Bright Half Life and is able to see a part of themselves on stage that they haven’t seen before, and feel like they have permission to live their own authentic life, I will have done my job right.

What made you decide to adapt this production, Bright Half Life, originally written as a two-hander, to have a cast of four?

When I first read this play, the image of four performers immediately popped into my head. I see this play as two women coming together at the end of it all to look back on every memory they had together, all the good and the bad, and remembering the complete essence of their love story. To be able to see your younger self in front of you reliving every important moment in your life is a powerful image, and one that I thought would be exciting for the audience to engage with. I also loved the idea of the lines blurring between the two pairs – memories are never as clear as the real thing, and as we jump through time trying to remember Vicky and Erica’s love story, the timeline blurs and bleeds through into the pair’s modern narrative.

What is the one thing you want the audience to take away with them after seeing Bright Half Life?

That love looks a million different ways. I think sometimes we have a one-dimensional view of love and the way it manifests itself, but I would argue that love exists in all of our fights, in all of our challenges, and all of our pain. I also want people to take away the idea that soulmates, or our deepest and greatest loves of our life, aren’t always with us. You can be with someone and they can have the most profound impact on your life, but they may not be with you at the very end. Even if you still truly love one another.

What do you love most about Sydney’s theatre scene? What could be improved?

I love the sense of community – as artists we know how hard it can be to do what we do, and there’s always someone ready to lend a hand, or give advice. It takes a village to create a show, and sometimes those village members come from outside of your creative team. What could be improved is the gaps in progression for those who want to expand their career within this industry – you’ve got a wonderful Independent scene, and an equally wonderful professional/commercial scene, but not much in between, so making that jump can often feel nearly impossible.

What is your favourite wine?

I’m not too fussy on my wine, but I love a good Riesling or Shiraz!

Purchase your tickets to Bright Half Life here.

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