Growing up Kodie Bedford didn’t attend the theatre - not until she moved to Sydney from small-town Geraldton in Western Australia to pursue a career in writing and television.
“Theatre has always traditionally been seen as a very rich white person's medium,” Kodie tells NITV News.
"I didn't really go to the theatre, but when I moved to Sydney, the first theatre I came to was Belvoir."
Now more than ten years after moving to Sydney - and an impressive early career that has seen her write for the ABC's award-winning, Mystery Road, and a string of other series - Kodie plans to “knock those walls down”.
It’s for Belvoir Street Theatre that, for the past 12-months she has poured herself into her debut work Cursed!: a play inspired by the passing of her nan in Geraldton and the reunion of her “mad, multicultural family”.
“The hardest moment in life is sitting next to my Nan as she's passing and I got to tell her I love her, which is an absolute magnificent gift, but also accessing that imagination, like, ‘All right, what do I got to do next? Write,’” she says.
“Because that's the only way I know how to survive these hard times.”
Making the play a comedy about a personal moment in her family’s life was a natural fit, Kodie explains - saying it practically wrote itself.
“All of my cousins got the call, ‘Come home, [nan’s] in her last days.’ And we came home, and just the idea of all of us in the room, but then grief and the heightened emotions,” she says.
“… where Mum is bringing in roast chickens every minute… And my aunty is moving curtains, because they're not to the perfection.
“It made me think this is a really good scene for a play.”
The honesty with which her family speak about mental illness also played a part in the writing process - rather than a “dark secret”, she says it was “just there”.
“We never take things seriously. But the unique thing about comedy is that you can really tackle these dark issues and come in them, and punch people in the heart, but through laughter and have… that the universal thing of family, love and mental illness,” she says.
“I think everyone can relate to those, no matter what your background, but coming at it through comedy, really disarms people and allows for them to connect in a different way.”
As a Balnaves Fellow with Belvoir, Kodie has been one of the lucky few to have a production staged in 2020.
When the lockdown was announced, she isolated herself in her home in the Blue Mountains and wrote.
“Pandemic aside, creating this work was hard enough, because it was personal, and because I was dealing with dark issues, even though it was a comedy. I felt really anxious,” she says.
“But then you put a global pandemic on top of that, and it made my problems really feel small in the end. But also it gave me a chance in a weird way… to sit at home and be with myself and concentrate on my own personal work, because I couldn't go anywhere.”
Kodie says the reality of a half-full theatre and audience members wearing masks has been confronting (“it's really hard to laugh when you're wearing a mask”), but the opportunity to create a space for the arts was worth it.
“The feedback I've been receiving is that laughter is what we need at the moment,” she says.
“Really this show has been for people that don't normally go to the theatre. And that's what I've been most proud of…
“It might be inaccessible for some people, but I am going to knock those walls down. That's my goal in the future. I want everyone to be able to access the theatre, because it's changed my life. It saved my life. And what more could you want to give a community?”
'We're feeling powerful'
Creating space for mob and amplifying community voices is what led Kodie to speak up in June about the debilitating effect racism had on her during her time employed as a cadet journalist at SBS in 2008.
Her honest account of racism, as well as the inaction of colleagues and managers, concluded that after two years with the broadcaster her skillset and mental health suffered deeply.
Reflecting on the experience nearly five months later, Kodie says she was part of a wave of people speaking up about discrimination in the hope it would lead to change.
“The amount of support that I got made me restore my faith in humanity,” she says.
“SBS had a hard look at itself and [its] charter, which I am a huge supporter of, and reassessed, ‘Okay, what are we doing wrong?’
“And, I'm very grateful to the management of SBS for doing that, because it is a hard thing to do, to look at yourself and see what you're doing wrong.”
Ms Bedford says the reckoning in industries across the world in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement has, in a way, handed power back to marginalised communities.
“We're feeling powerful, we're getting our power back, and we're feeling safe to truth-tell these stories and our journey and our history and go... ‘Actually, yeah, we do have a place here,’” she says.