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Under Pressure

14 August 2012 | 8:00 am | Dave Drayton

"Well, he’s dead, man, even physically, he can’t get up to swing a punch at me."

In the larger scheme of things, Mark Rogers is relatively new to the playwriting game. Beyond a stint reworking the classic 'Tis Pity She's A Whore at Merrigong Theatre in Wollongong, and co-writing Sydney Fringe show Goobledygook alongside performer Aileen Huynh, there was little else before he sat down to write Blood Pressure. But that's done little to quell his vision, or his confidence… In a video created to raise funds for Blood Pressure's production on crowd-funding site Pozible, Rogers claims “In a playwrighting fight between myself and William Shakespeare, I would win.”

“Well, he's dead, man, even physically, he can't get up to swing a punch at me,” jokes a slightly more reasonable Rogers when we discuss Blood Pressure and the Pozible video created by Bodysnatchers, a theatre company born from the creative collaboration between Rogers and director Sanja Simic. Jokes aside, this is a man on a mission, and despite a somewhat haphazard entrance into the ring Rogers is taking this playwrighting business by the horns. “I always maintained for a long amount of my life that I couldn't write plays and that it wasn't something that I was interested in doing. Before Bodysnatchers even formed really, Sanja was doing a development at the Merrigong Theatre Company down in Wollongong and she asked me to come in and help her writing some very freeform adaptations of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, and myself and another writer, Jackson Davis, went in with her and we just started impro-ing off the text with actors and writing ideas and I guess I wrote a scene and I was like, 'Oh, fuck, I quite like that scene.' There was something in that that I liked, and then I thought, 'Oh, shit, maybe I'm a… Maybe I can do this writing thing?'

“And then I made up an idea for Blood Pressure – I smashed in and wrote the first draft of it, which was probably about 15 pages long and totally insane and rubbish, and then it's extended to this thing we're putting on at the Old Fitz, which is now 96 pages long and actually a good play I hope!” Rogers reflects with an endearing earnestness.

At the centre of the play are two brothers, Michael and Adam; one has given the other a much-needed organ and now, as that organ fails, we witness the physical and emotional deterioration. This act of sharing, of the highest order, resonated personally with Rogers. “A lot of people who I'm around, and a lot of people in the cast and the creative team with this show have had experience with organ donation in their families, either with people being sick and needing them, or with donating, and I too have a personal history of that in my family. I became kind of fascinated with a strange, weird body and emotional politic that goes along with something like that.

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“The whole politic of it is amazing. At any time in Australia there is between 1,500 and 2,000 people on the waiting list for organs and they're waiting up to four years for an operation. And that four years; it's not just them sitting in their house, it's them constantly getting treatment, it's them being sick, suppressed… This is an experience that is massively unpleasant and touches a lot of lives. And us trying to look at that in the context of the play, I'm really glad that we have so many people who have tried to understand it as best they can, not only through their own experience with it, but through coming and talking through it with us and other people.”

Blood Pressure runs from Tuesday 14 August to Saturday 1 September, The Old Fitzroy.