INTERVIEW: Gita Bezard from All That Glitters
Gita Bezard doesn't consider herself an activist. She laughs as she says she tries to be, but next to her brother - who was arrested after breaking into this year's Australian Open men's final, to hang a banner drawing attention to the plight of refugees in detention on Manus Island - she describes herself as moderate. "Most of the time I feel like I don't do enough," she admits. "But you know, I go to protests, and I sign petitions, and I try to do things." And what she's doing right now is a great example of that. She's directing and co-devising a new Blue Room Theatre play, All That Glitters, that describes itself as a part-protest, part-pop-music-extravaganza - interrogating what we, as ordinary Australians, can do when human rights are violated in our civic names - but all you want to do it hide from the hopelessness and blast some Taylor Swift.
"I think so many people feel so helpless about what they can do, and I wanted to investigate that idea about feeling helpless, and hopeless, and wanting to take responsibility and find action that we can do as average people – not big-time human rights lawyers; what we can do as average citizens," explains Gita. The play focuses on refugees - not the experience of refugees, but what our reactions to refugees are, given that Australia's treatment of asylum seekers has been publicly denounced by the United Nations. Gita says that she wants to look at what our responsibility is when those violations are being committed by the government - our elected representatives. But don't think that it provides an answer.
I want to investigate that idea about feeling helpless, and hopeless, and wanting to find action that we can do as average people.
"Part of the play's investigation is that it’s just not that simple – it’s not easy, and it will never feel easy," Gita says, when I ask if the play is interrogative, or provides a neat solution to the question posed. "Everyone just needs to do something – even if it’s tiny. Doing something is better than doing nothing. There is no easy solution, and we can’t hand you the easy solution and easy action you can take."
Gita says that All That Glitters is more direct than previous works by her company, The Last Great Hunt - but it seems like it has to be, when even a self-confessed moderate activist sees a lot of apathy. "I feel a lot of despair when I sign petitions or go to rallies – it just feels endless and hopeless and like we will never make a difference," Gita says frankly. "But if we all stop doing those things we’ll never make a difference. You just have to keep trying, trying to find new ways and know that change doesn’t come from just one person – change comes from one person getting into it. I think there are lots of people in Australia who are making those steps – continuing, encouraging other people to do it. We need to encourage people to encourage other people. We want to explain why this is important without being prescriptive."
It's not easy, and it will never feel easy. Everyone just needs to do something - even if it's tiny. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
I post a challenging question - if Gita cares so much about the plight of refugees, and believes in an individual's ability to create change, is making theatre really the best use of her time and talent?
"We've posed that question to ourselves a lot through the process," she says. "There’s a couple of parts to that question. Does theatre make a difference? That’s one of the things we investigate in the show. Because you can go into it with the best intentions and then just think, 'oh, it doesn’t – what is the point?' I think we’ve sort of come back to two things – for a start, 'this is the thing that we do'. And I think we can get out there and talk about things and we have an audience and maybe it won’t change people’s minds but maybe it will change one person’s mind. We do have a voice and we can use that voice to refuse to be silenced or refused to be censored. And I think that’s important. It might not seem important on the list of most important things but it is still something that contributes to the cause."
Gita says that she believes there's something to be said for using the thing you love to try and make change, rather than forcing yourself to do something that you think is more helpful, but which makes you unhappy. "Chances are, you won't be very effective anyway," she says. "If you do it with passion you'll always do it a thousand times better."
All That Glitters opens at the Blue Room on Tuesday and runs until 29 August. Tickets from the Blue Room website.