It’s an intriguing title so The Guide reached out to the co-creators of DELTA SIERRA JULIET to get more of an idea about the production. We had the chance to send through some questions to Jackson Used who with Darcy Green (also directing) and Elliot Vella created the show when it first appeared as part of the NIDA Directors’ and Designers’ Graduating Productions.
SAG: The name of the play is obviously a call sign, what’s going here?
JACKSON: Delta Sierra Juliet refers to the callsign of the Cessna 182L light aircraft that Frederick Valentich was flying when he disappeared in 1978. We found a transcript of the conversation between Valentich and the Melbourne Air Traffic Control Tower right at the beginning of our creative process, which is genuinely spooky. Delta Sierra Juliet felt obscure and mysterious, almost like you were reading code.
SAG: Was that what sparked the creative process that culminated in the show?
JACKSON: Definitely, the transcript of Valentich’s disappearance. Our first creative meetings were largely our response to this document, which details the six minute transmission and Mr Valentich’s description of an Unidentified Flying Object circling him over Bass Strait. It’s eerie and steeped in the kind of mystery we wanted to place at the heart of the show. I think this was really critical as it sparked the conversations around sound design and the implementation of headphones as the medium for telling this show.
SAG: What’s the intent of the audience having headphones and how difficult is that technical process?
JACKSON: We wanted to interrogate the role of the audience and the intimacy of theatre as a medium. Content that is created for radio or podcasts is generally presented to an individual ‘listener’, as if the host was speaking to you directly, rather than being delivered to a homogenous audience. We wanted to explore how the delivery and revelation of information changes when it’s whispered in your ear vs being projected from the stage.
A large part of the process involved us working with guest artists such as Simon Burke and Jennifer Hagan to fill in Reg’s world and create a sense of life around the play. A lot of Darcy’s approach in his direction was to lean in to our use of sound to unpack the thematic content within the text and to realise the show. The whole process was quite involved and definitely different to a traditional rehearsal space.
SAG: Originally the production appeared as part of NIDA’s Graduating season and you have the creators and cast back on board again. How has the project developed from that original?
JACKSON: Our aim with this remount was to examine scale and intimacy. A lot of the key ingredients from our initial presentation of Delta Sierra Juliet are similar, thus it was a process of fine-tuning elements of the text and design, and uncovering the best way to implement these elements in a completely different space.
SAG: Do you think audiences should do any research before they encounter the work, or is better to come to the mystery curious?
JACKSON: We’ve created the work to be as accessible as possible, so don’t be afraid of walking in without a cheat sheet. Having said that, there is so much information and conjecture out there, and if conspiracy theories are your thing, it’s not a bad topic to dig into. In the four decades since he vanished numerous people have dedicated their time and passion to trying to solve what happened, and determine whether this was a tragic accident or evidence of an abduction.
SAG: And you are playing at one of my fave indie venues. How much do we love 107 Projects. Affordable and supportive, it’s a great venue.
JACKSON: The team at 107 has been so supportive right from the very start. You really get a sense that everyone there is excited about bringing artists together to foster new work and new creative collaborations. It’s a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to presenting art and I think that’s just what Sydney needs.