TIM Winton is the first to admit that seeing one of his stories come to life on stage is terrifying.
“I'm always absolutely terrified on opening night,” he said.
“When you write a book, it comes out in a very gradual sense; you almost see it from afar like a General running a war with maps and compasses. With a play you are really in the trenches, you can smell the gun smoke and the blood.”
Winton's new play Signs of Life has threads of drought, loneliness and isolation running through it, but at its heart, it's a story about the human condition and the state of our communities.
It tells the story of Georgie Jutland (a character Winton fans will recognise from his novel Dirt Music), she is recently widowed and living alone on an olive grove near Moore River when she hears noises out on the highway.
Emerging from the darkness is Bender and his sister Mona, an indigenous brother and sister who have been living in their car and decide to stay on the property with Georgie - but she doesn't know why they are there and how long they intend to stay.
Emotionally fractured and exhausted by both her husband's death and the drought, humour and awkwardness collide in the play as we see Georgie reluctantly sharing a house with two strangers.
“Anyone who is familiar with Dirt Music will have moments of recognition of Georgie's character. That's an extra benefit, but you don't have to have read the book to see the play,” Tim said.
“Many of my characters slip from one book or play to another; this one turned into in to a play because I was writing plays and adapting novels to television at the time.
“In Signs of Life, Georgie is a lot older than she was in Dirt Music and she has had a lot of change in her life. She feels like her life and the world around her has dried up.
“Her future is uncertain and essentially The play looks at if these three people have a future, one is newly widowed and alone, the others are searching for where they belong in society.
“It also asks a bigger question of how can we as a society that continues to break into smaller units and disconnect as communities, survive as a species? Our sense of connection and responsibility is definitely being eroded.”
As always with Winton's stories, Western Australia is one of the central characters in Signs of Life.
“The landscape of WA is really important in my writing, I'm inspired by it - there is a peculiar sense of space that prevails here and for a lot of people there are disadvantages in the isolation, but I've been very lucky that the isolation has always been a benefit for me.”
What: Signs of Life
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
When: July 21 to 18 August
Tickets: Call BOCS 9484 1133 or www.bocsticketing.com.au