Back To Birdy

Rebecca Varidel
12th Feb 2024

Fruit Box Theatre's Back to Birdy is coming to Sydney Mardi Gras from 21 February to 1 March. To find out a bit more of what's in store for us from this Sydney show at The Imperial Hotel, two of the leads sat down to ask each other a few questions.

Gemma Dart (Emily)

Q: What drew you to the play?

A: Many things. Bui’s marvellous writing – the charming playfulness to it. The feel for Emily and Warren was immediate and the flow from heartache to humour was seamless. The interplay of past and present self is brilliant. A character who gets to observe and interact with their younger self is a rare treat. Lately I’ve been drawn to stories that centre around friendship. We experience so many retirements and re-births of friendship from teen years to thirties; it’s something we never fully anticipate as kids. The lows of losing mates and drifting away is universally shared; I loved how Back to Birdy celebrates the heartaches and ecstasies of friendship, in all its messy beauty.

Q: How much of yourself do you see in Emily?

A: Her spotlight-seeking nature is definitely little theatre kid Gem coming out to play. I guess I see a few different versions of myself in her. She’s definitely more of a word vomiter; where she says the first thing she thinks of, I’ll be practicing the sentence 20 times first in my head. We love Emily because even though she gets it wrong, she genuinely tries. She always wants to know where she screwed up, understand why and learn how to do better; that’s strongly relatable.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about the play?

A: The power in the questions it leaves us all with – our individual blindsides, our friendships, how we love, how we communicate, and how important it is to try.

Q: What’s the rehearsal process been like? Has anything stood out from previous projects you’ve worked on?

A: The structure of the schedule has made it possibly the most peaceful rehearsal period ever. We powered through the end of the year with deep scene study, had January off to learn lines, then came back in Feb to smash out 3 weeks of full-time rehearsals. Love it. Anxiety? Who is she? Sean makes rehearsals a dream – he creates a beautifully supportive environment to work in; we play, we dissect scenes together as a team; every rehearsal is a connected and warmed space, bookended with a stretch and energy check-in/reflection circle.

Something that stood out, Fruit Box introduced us to their accessibility coordinator in our first rehearsal. I knew I’d want to work with these cool cats again in a heartbeat after this. Having a support avenue for any accessibility requests or chats needed is such a needed resource for inclusivity. Fruit Box is doing indie theatre right.

Hayden Moon (Warren)

Q: What drew you to the role of Warren?

A: It’s very rare for me to see roles written for trans masculine people. I’ve found it hard in the past to audition for male roles as often trans actors aren’t considered for cisgender roles. So I was automatically drawn to the role when I saw that the character was a trans man. As I read more about the character I found that I could relate to him a lot through his experiences and his way of being in the world. I felt that my lived experience as a trans masculine person would be an asset to the role.

Q: Is there a specific scene you’re most excited for people to see?

A: Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers because I want the audience to go on this journey with us, but yes there is one scene in particular that I’m excited for audience members to see. There is a really poignant scene in which Warren shares what he needed from Emily when he came out to her. I think it’s such a powerful scene both for the community and for our allies to see. I know that I relate to it a lot personally and I’m sure many other trans people do as well, and I really hope that allies watching will be able to leave the play knowing how to respond if/when someone close to them comes out as trans to them.

Q: Do you think you’d be friends with Warren in real life?

A: I do! We have our differences of course, but I think we also have a lot of things in common. He’s a sweet guy with a kind heart even though he’s not one to show it. I think we’d get along well.

Q: How does it feel to be playing a character that is identity affirming?

A: It feels like a real blessing. As I said before, it’s rare to see trans masculine characters on stages (and on screen) and when we do see trans characters they’re often a minor character or their story line is a coming out story or it focuses all on the difficulties of being trans. It is difficult to be trans in this world, but there’s also so much more to trans people than the adversity we face. It’s such a great feeling to be playing a trans character, who is a main character, in a play about friendship. These are the kinds of stories that trans people deserve, we deserve to have stories about us that see us as full complex people rather than just our trans identity.

You can get your tickets for Back to Birdy at

Hayden Moon, Gemma Dart, Chloe Jayne and Angelica Lockyer were photographed by Ash Penin.