Winner of the 2016 ADM Annual Funding Event, Hailey McQueen, shares how this funding has enabled her stage production of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters to tour Australia with great success. Story by Hayley Lukabyo.
When Hailey McQueen first came up with the idea of bringing a classic C.S. Lewis novel to life on the stage, she could not have imagined the ways in which God would exceed her expectations.
Hailey is the Director of Clock and Spiel productions – a theatre company that aims to “prompt audiences to pose questions with regard to faith and eternity, and acknowledge those answers framed in the context of the gospel”.
The company’s first professional performance in October 2015 was a stage adaption of The Screwtape Letters, which played a sell-out season at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. Following this unprecedented success, the company launched a 2016 season and sought funding through the ADM Annual Funding Event in September 2016. Hailey won first place at the event, and the award of $25,000 allowed the production to continue a national tour. The play has now toured Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, followed by Adelaide in April this year, and has received tremendous reviews.
In The Screwtape Letters Hailey has created a thought-provoking and engaging piece of theatre, that successfully engages audiences with notions of evil, free will and spirituality, and uses theatre to bridge the divide between secular culture and questions of faith and God. Hailey shares her thoughts with us on the play’s success:
You have achieved great success around Australia with your production of The Screwtape Letters. What have been the highlights for you?
Obvious highlights were selling-out the Seymour Centre, having thousands of people see the show, and having it recognised and reviewed with acclaim in the mainstream media. But I think what stood out most were the conversations I overheard in the foyers as people filed out of the theatres. Conversations of great joy, deep reflection and questioning. For me, that’s the best measure that the show had done its job.
What compelled you to bring this particular story to the stage?
It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read, and Lewis’s profound insights into the spiritual realm have stayed with me over the years. The character of Screwtape is one of the great literary characters of the 20th century, and the rich poetic language lends itself beautifully to dramatisation on the stage.
What kind of reviews has the production received?
It’s a daunting thing to allow others to publicly criticise your work. You feel totally vulnerable. All in all, the reviews were excellent, and we were praised for all aspects of the production. It is a confronting and polarising subject matter, in that it assumes that there is absolute truth (God). So it was wonderful to see lively debate and even criticism amongst the reviews.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the play?
One of the most powerful concepts Lewis explores is the idea that the quality or outcomes of our life are determined by the choices we
make – and particularly that these choices are influenced by spiritual powers, principalities and forces that are moving us in a particular direction (however subtle they may be). So, I hope that audiences are encouraged and helped to explore this aspect of life and faith.
What is next for you and for Clock and Spiel productions?
This is the million-dollar question! We have been poring over ideas for the past six months. We are working on several new productions, including a brand new verbatim play, an immersive theatre experience and adaptations of two very well-known literary works. As part of our research we’re also looking for stories about refugees, so please contact us if you know of someone who has had first-hand experience of fleeing their home or being in detention.
Are you ready? It’s almost time to apply for this year’s Annual Funding Event, which will be held on 20 September this year. Don’t miss your chance to change your ministry, your project or idea, and your life! The categories for this year’s event are Mission & Ministry, Mercy & Justice, Mental Health & Pastoral Care, and Arts & Culture. If you have a kingdom-building idea, we want to hear it. Applications open 1 July 2017, so start preparing your application now! You can find the application form here.