Melbourne International Film Festival: Stories I Want To Tell You In Person (Australia, 2015)

Originally a play by the same name, Stories I Want To Tell You In Person was funded by the ABC to make a version for the screen. Intended to be a play about the GFC and commissioned by the Sydney Belvoir Theatre, playwright Lally Katz Stories I Want To Tell You In Person is the result of 2 years of procrastination and conversations with her subconscious regarding a curse that Katz holds, which is that she has put writing infront of love. Written and then acted by herself and featuring cameos from a gruff but understanding Apocalypse Bear and glimmers of Hope Dolphin, Katz takes you on a journey through her life as a writer and the complications that arise when one’s career is about telling stories.

The adaptation to screen is a interesting little thing, running at 52 minutes, the film is not a short and neither a feature but is actually an installment of 2 episodes for television, rather than a conventional length festival short. Its length also stays faithful to the original play with the affiliated production house Matchbox and ABC being adamant that the screen adaptation still be true to its theatre roots. In this way Stories I Want To Tell You In Person contains an interesting hybrid between elements of screen and theatre performances and structure. In many ways this helps the internal monologue significantly as the clever staging and theatrical elements make the film seem less of a recount.

Katz’s relationship with her “characters” is also a point worth noting. She takes on the persona of Cookie, a sassy New York Physic and then dates a Cowboy followed by a “full Jewish”. These eclectic characters liven the performance and speed up the beat of the film with the most interesting character being Anna, a feisty, rude and hilariously charming old Hungarian lady who befriends Katz and offers her advice on life. Katz’s is exceptionally clever with how she creates these individuals relying on stereotype to then contrast with unexpected personalities and valuable insight. These characters shine bright in this film and are welcome relief from Katz’s sometimes too “love obsessed” ramblings.

Seeing Katz open up to the realities of her life was a personal experience for me as I was first introduced to Katz’s work as a 16 year old high school student when I watched her modern adaptation of Frankenstein at the Sydney Theatre Company back in 2009. I later received permission from Katz to adapt her play for my HSC monologue. Katz represented a young new voice in the theatre and was an inspiration to me at that age and still continues to be. Her unique and eclectic way of storytelling is captivating, spontaneous and contains a wild serendipity and splendid naiviety. Perhaps naiviety is the wrong word, Katz instead processes an unrelentless optimism which allows her to find stories in people who often do not capture the spotlight.

However in saying this, after a while Katz’s conundrum over “love or writing” became a little bit tiresome and I found myself longing instead to be watching her GFC pitch about a Cowboy and his pregnant psychic girlfriend Cookie, but I guess sometimes personal stories talk better to audiences. In this way Stories I Want To Tell You In Person feels like a trial run for television. It’s awkward narrative fits well with a television audience and and will no doubt help bridge the gap between theatre and screen. However, most importantly, Stories I Want To Tell You In Person offers an introduction and a glimpse into the mind of an Australian playwright that you should keep your eye on.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Stories I Want To Tell You In Person screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival.