For the past nine months, life has felt like a big celebration for Laura Shaw. Freshly graduated from WAAPA, Laura has dived straight into the industry. Her professional theatre debut comes in the critically acclaimed Things I Know To Be True by Andrew Bovell and presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company.
Under the direction of Kate Champion, Laura has taken on the role of Rosie Price; a 19-year-old, the youngest of four siblings who is on a journey of self-discovery while experiencing a bout of change in her life. Over the span of a year Rosie and her siblings reveal a crisis in each of their lives, which will forever change the family.
Laura describes the role of Rosie as a gift, “My first and only dream as child was to act. Being able to actually live that [dream] out and see it manifested is pretty surreal.”
Rosie is a different kind of role to those Laura has played previously, but one she’s always gravitated towards. “In high school and in junior theatre, I always got cast in the boy roles or the character roles. I’d always look at the people next to me playing these beautiful young women and I was like, wow, one day I’ll do that. Rosie is a beautiful character.”
Laura Shaw as Rosie in Things I Know To Be True, alongside Caroline Brazier and Humphrey Bower. Photography by Daniel J Grant.
Stepping into a professional rehearsal room for the first time, Laura says she’s learned a lot from her fellow actors and creatives. “I love being the listener and I love receiving. [I see] how the older actors act in the space, how they use the rehearsal room, how they change every night, how they are spontaneous. They can give the same product but it’s still different, it’s still free.
“I’m learning consistency with freedom. It’s probably the biggest gift as a young actor, I’m just drinking it all in.”
The learning process extends onto the stage, where the audience helps Laura learn more about Rosie in every performance. “With the audience, it gives a new energy to the show. You understand what information is important and what needs to change. I discovered something with Rosie that I didn’t find in rehearsals, it was so obvious that I was like- damn I missed it!
“There’s a lot of loss in the play with every sibling. I noticed her grief around losing a sibling in every scene. Rosie doesn’t want anything to change in her family, she wants her family to stay together forever. It’s almost like she gets cracked down in every season.”
Laura Shaw as Rosie in Things I Know To Be True, alongside Humphrey Bower as Bob. Photography by Daniel J Grant.
Set over a year, the play is broken into seasons where the focus turns to one of the siblings who each reveal, to their parents Bob (Humphrey Bower) and Fran (Caroline Brazier), something they’ve been hiding and struggling with. Unlike the other siblings in the show, Rosie is onstage for each of these confessions, taking on a spectator role.
Laura sees Rosie as a representation of the audience in these scenes, where she has to carefully manage her responses to the receive and interpret the information at hand. “Rosie is the viewer; she almost becomes the audience. Receiving this information every night is almost like a meditation, you can’t jump the gun, you have to listen and react at the right moments. You can’t go too early or too late, because the listener is vital.”
The content in each of these scenes, Laura admits, is heavy and something that isn’t always easy to witness and perform. “It’s definitely been challenging in rehearsals, being in every single scene and going into these crazy situations that are dealing with big topics. It can be hard receiving it all the time.
“But the way Kate has directed it and the way Andrew has written it, there are pockets of light in the work that Rosie can rest in. It’s the same with the audience, they can find light even in the darkness. The writing allows it, there’s humour in every scene.”
The extension of the audience into the story is a clear priority within Kate’s vision for the show. Laura tells us that this influenced the type of movement the actors were given, stripping back moments to let the text shine and be comprehended by the audience. “Kate wanted the audience to be like another character in the story. For the actors, she took a lot away so there wasn’t much dazzle or distraction. The audience could do the rest. She’s allowing them space to grieve and space to imagine.
“If we played it up, which we easily could, the audience would have less engagement because more is being done for them. I love this take and what Kate has done with it.”
Laura Shaw and Emma Jackson in the rehearsal room of Things I Know To Be True. Photography Daniel J Grant.
On the June 18, Laura will play her last show as Rosie and after several months with her, it will be time to move on. But it won’t be an easy goodbye. Laura says that every show she does teaches her something and Things I Know To Be True is no different.
“Whatever play I enter, the learnings of those plays reflect in real life. So, there’ll be a period of time where I have the same lessons as the themes of the play. Right now, I’m learning the topic of change and coping with the unknown.
“The spirit of this play is very special to me, and it’s helped me with a lot with my grief and loss. Doing the end monologue every night [where Rosie lists everything she knows to be true] it’s like a little mantra. It’s a reminder that everything is temporary, it’s empowering in a way. I’ll miss the safety of returning to this world every night, this known world. This beautiful world. These beautiful characters and beautiful relationships.”