INTERVIEW: Jessica Messenger from Multiverse Theory in D
A word of warning: writer Jessica Messenger's new play is going to hit pretty close to home for those of us with any kind of inclination to perfectionism (um, guilty). When you hear its subject matter, that makes sense: the play's about a woman named Naomi, who on the surface appears to have it all - a high-paying job, a good-looking boyfriend and a great social life. But then, of course, there's the kind of encounter no amount of affirming Instagram quotes can diffuse - a run-in with an ex, that leaves her wondering: what if things had turned out differently?
Jessica says frankly that the idea for the show came from her own experience of being that person Naomi is. "It was, in part, inspired by my own experiences of being that strong, capable, has-it-all-together woman, and not really coping on the inside," she says of the play, titled Multiverse Theory in D. "I have a five-year-old, and I had pretty severe post-natal depression, and it just wasn't what I expected. I had dreamed my whole life of getting married young, and having a baby, and staying married forever. Now I am nearly 30, I'm divorced, and life is in no way where I expected it to be."
Jessica says that the experience taught her to be vulnerable, which has made her a lot happier. "I've also discovered the amazing side effect, that if I'm not perfect, then it's easier for other people around me to be their imperfect selves as well," she says. "Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is admit you aren't coping and ask for help. So with this show, I wanted to write about that, that seeming perfect, and not being happy. And that sometimes overwhelming obsession with the 'what ifs'."
She admits that she's agonised over how life would have turned out if she hasn't been one of the 25 per cent of new mothers who get PND, but concludes simply that she's happy with her life, and it wouldn't have turned out this way without the bumps in the road. And that's what she wants audiences to take away from the play, too.
"I hope the audience go away feeling like it is okay not to be perfect, not to have it all, even to be unhappy," Jessica says. "And more than anything else, that it is okay to admit that. I hope people feel validated, encouraged and inspired, maybe not to run away from their lives and live out their wildest fantasies, but to do the bravest thing of all, and ask for help if they aren't coping."
Despite its serious subject matter - Jessica says the idea for the play came from a discussion of modern Western ennui in a Black Swan Young Writers' Group workshop - Multiverse Theory in D is still a silly, upbeat, madcap piece, with jazz music, existential angst, and some serious theoretical physics (those what ifs Naomi contemplates? She actually goes, Sliding Doors-style, into alternate universes). Jessica, a self-confessed "giant nerd", says she wove the physics into the story after getting into theories of multiple universes. "And it's great, it means that we can jump between these three crazy worlds, all underscored to a nineties pop/jazz standard fusion mix, and all of a sudden we have this wonderful soundtrack," Jessica says of the fusion between jazz and physics.
Multiverse Theory in D opens tonight at the Blue Room Theatre - but don't imagine Jessica in an opening-night tizzy. She says she's feeling relaxed and prepared about the opening, and leaves with a life lesson that all type-As should commit to memory.
"So far the test audiences we've had, have been really positive, but you can be the sweetest peach in the world, and sometimes people just won't like peaches," she says. "I am really happy with it. I've had a lot of shows produced, and this is the first time I have felt like what is on stage, is what was in my imagination. I just hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I do!"
Tickets for Multiverse Theory in D are from the Blue Room website. The show runs until 5 December.