The magic of fear

In the canteen queue at the opera house where I work, the renowned Australian theatre director Barrie Kosky was standing in front of me.

'How are you, Barrie?' asked a passing colleague.

'I'm very tired,' replied Kosky unapologetically. He was in town to direct a revival of his smash-hit production of Handel's oratorio Saul at the same time as flying back and forth to Germany, where he was overseeing another show.

Saul premiered three years ago in 2015. During the process of its creation, I witnessed literal blood, sweat and tears from performers, creators and technical staff as Kosky raised the bar and pushed everyone way beyond their comfort zones. With no idea of how the show was going to be received, cast and crew alike were gripped with fear. I have to say, Kosky was not a popular figure among the company at that time.

But then, after the curtain came down on the opening night, the five-star reviews began thundering in. Realisation dawned that we had a hit on our hands, and the atmosphere backstage became incandescent with crackling electricity.

'This has been one of the most exhausting and frightening yet utterly rewarding experiences of my life,' a singer posted on Facebook.

It's a lesson that I try to keep in mind when I am engaging in my own creative processes. If you want to create something truly extraordinary, playing it safe is no good. You are going to have to walk through fire to achieve it.

But first, I might need another coffee...