THE idea of theatre work Improvement Club has been germinating with writer and director Jeffrey Jay Fowler since 2011.
“I was looking at this world where everyone is trying to improve and we’re constantly pushed toward improvement, particularly by companies who want us to buy their products,” Fowler said.
“I was wondering what the end point of improvement was? Where is that point where we think ‘Oh, I’m just fine. I have enough money, I’m fit enough, healthy enough and my relationship is good enough’? I think we’re in a system that constantly pushes us to feel unsatisfied with what we have.”
Feeling there was something missing with the idea, it took until this year for Fowler to write Improvement Club, a comedy about a guy who creates a club that only wants to improve and then when it comes to the point where people question what that means, he balks at the answer.
“I think the play I would have written in 2011 as a 25-year-old wouldn’t have been as complex or thorough as I’m writing now,” he said.
“Over the last few years we’ve really been questioning who is in charge of our narrative as a society. Who are all the politicians and how does race change who is telling the story?
“I think I’ve become a lot more aware of what that means as a middle-class, white guy who is sitting in a position of privilege and how that then coincides with improvement in a world where all of the faces being held up to us as ideal are faces of handsome white men and attractive white females.
“The play is about the simultaneous parallel push for individual improvement and for societal improvement.”
Improvement Club is presented at State Theatre Centre of WA by theatre company The Last Great Hunt, of which Fowler is a co-founder, along with other ‘Hunters’ and the team behind last year’s play The Advisors, Gita Bezard, Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs and guest theatre makers Frieda Lee and Mararo Wangai.
“We have already had very difficult conversations last year when we put The Advisors together which tackled head-on issues of identity, race, gender and sexuality,” he said.
“There is a real comfort and familiarity in the room, so when I brought this material in, and some of it is very uncomfortable, there is the ability for us to have a fantastic, nuanced conversation. Even when we don’t all agree or are of the same political alignment. But it’s good because we can have a thorough conversation to create a work that hopefully, ideally, complexly looks at this issue of societal improvement from both sides.”
What: Improvement Club
Where: State Theatre Centre of WA
When: June 27 to July 7