Fangirls turned the narrative around teenage girls who love boybands on its head and turned out to be one of the hottest tickets of the year.
This year she turns her hand to Terence Rattigan’s tragic heroine Hester, to be played by the formidable Marta Dusseldorp in The Deep Blue Sea to open STC’s 2020 season. It’s another strong, but flawed, female role that Rattray will explore through the prism of femininity.
“Growing up, I think a lot of the things I saw and read women were presented in a particular way,” she says during a break in rehearsals ahead of next month’s opening of the show.
“For a long time everyone was really interested in this weak-willed neurotic woman, but not necessarily understanding what fed into that.”
In Beauty Queen, Maureen is trapped looking after her mother and left thoroughly unsatisfied with her life before going on a murderous rampage. Rattray and Stone crafted the character in a way that left the audience feeling quite empathetic towards her, despite the choices she made.
“In life I have always been interested in the why – what leads someone to do something so awful,” Rattray says.
“Quite often in life we will ask how something can have happened or we say I would never do that, but I am very much interested in the how and the greater meaning in the depth of that.”
The fact she chooses plays with strong female protagonists is far from accidental.
After graduating from NIDA, Rattray began her working life at the Griffin Theatre Company. It was there she discovered a lack of plays she could connect with, specifically plays written by women. To address the gap, she formed a production company and started commissioning works by women that she could direct.
“I’ve only just started directing plays written by men,” she says. “I thought I should branch out.”
Rattray’s rise to the top comes at a particularly exciting time for female creatives. Most Australian theatre companies are working towards gender parity in their creative departments.
This year at STC alone, Rattray will direct two productions including the world premiere of Triple X in May. Her fellow creatives – Jessica Arthur, Shari Sebbens, Sarah Giles, and Susanna Dowling – will all have productions mounted.
Rattray acknowledges it is an exciting time to be working in the industry, but is acutely aware she hasn’t reached this point alone.
“There has been an extraordinary whirling up of women in the industry who are all really supportive of each other,” she said.
“That started really early on with Sarah Goodes, Sarah Giles and Imara Savage.
“I think something really beautiful happens when everyone supports each other, and you do see in this industry that all these women really champion each other.”
Nathanael Cooper is the deputy culture editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.