Step inside modern fatherhood: The state. The practice. The meaning. It’s a lofty logline for the upcoming In His Words: Voices of Fatherhood, playing at The Street Theatre this June.
In His Words is a live music, cinematic exploration of the contemporary experience of being a father through song, words, evocative soundscapes, first-hand accounts, film…and unfiltered authenticity. It brings together the voice, and the stories, of nine different fathers, lovingly curated and live-scored by Canberra’s own Liam Budge in his creative Creswick guise.
As I waited for the award-winning composer, singer, photographer, and videographer to join me for our Zoom interview, I wondered what his inner questions or unresolved issues were to create this project exploring modern fatherhood.
Then Liam’s smile appeared haloed by South Canberra sunshine and, unwittingly, a voice inside me answered:
“His father is so, so proud of him.”
I have a feeling that Creswick, despite his gentle and highly creative exterior, has the capacity to extract truth and enhance self-awareness from all those who encounter him.
But I also knew that being able to get men to speak about their fathering experiences honestly and authentically was not the same as ticking a box to show you aren’t a robot.
“It has been difficult,” Liam reveals. “It’s one thing to be recorded on audio, but another to be vulnerable on camera and know that your voice and image will be seen and interpreted in a theatrical environment like this.
“Lots of fathers would talk off the record, but the visuals are a really big part of the creative output for both me, and for the audience to be able to connect.
“But what it has meant, because there is this bar of participation for men,” Liam continues, “is that the nine fathers profiled in this work all bring this incredible vulnerability to discussing where they’re at, through their insightful and thoughtful responses to the questions and the conversations around fatherhood.”
Liam Budge/Creswick—with his combination of elite creativity and lived experience—is perfectly positioned to helm such a work.
After releasing his debut jazz album to critical acclaim he moved to New York.
Budge worked with the finest musicians and on most storied stages like Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Centre.
Then, in 2018, Liam’s son Julian was born, and in 2019 they moved home to Canberra to be closer to family. They, like everyone in the region, were subject to bushfires, Covid, lockdowns, and an abrupt end to all creative endeavours in a public space.
“Being in lockdown with my family, we’ve always taken home videos,” Liam reveals. “All my gigs were cancelled. I have this deep love of video and documentation and I thought, what can I create in this time that means something to myself, as well as create a deep personal connection?
“In the past, I’ve created songs and videos, not necessarily from my own experience. Just by virtue of the fact that everything went inward, I was able to think about what I could create artistically and what I was passionate about which, for me, was being a father.”
And just like that, the Muse sparked.
“Suddenly, I was in a space where I was able to create all these cinematic home movies of my own son!” Liam enthuses. “My mind turned to thoughts about fatherhood and how I could capture the stories of other fathers. Of ways they might have different experiences to mine.
“That’s where the seed of this idea was born.”
Liam is not one of the nine featured in In His Words.
He is performing and scoring the work live during the performance; an impressive feat. Drawing inspiration from diverse artists such as Sting, Bon Iver, Nils Frahm, and Vince Jones, the music is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, folk, and rock music with soaring instrumental solos, delicate ballads, art rock and ultra-vivid textural soundscapes.
Along with Liam as Creswick on vocals, guitars, and keys, he is joined by Brett Williams on piano & keys (and also one of the nine fathers featured), Chris Pound on bass, Ben Hauptmann on guitars, and James Hauptmann on drums.
Liam and Julian do feature in the work, but Liam wanted primarily to explore other people’s stories and how they related to his, and his audience’s, experience.
There’s an abundance of joy and heartwarming tales to be enjoyed.
But not all the stories of the past are positive; testing ideas of masculinity, role-models, and culture.
Modern parenting has both changed and stayed the same. Diverse cultures and experiential backgrounds—when taken in together, such as His Words provides—encourage reflection of ourselves, our fathers, and our father figures.
I ask Liam if he thinks men, fathers, will voluntarily come to see this, or whether they’ll be “encouraged” along by their partners or children.
“Because this is inherently gendered, I do really hope that people will get behind it,” Liam explains. “That it will be embraced by those brave, interested, arts going, music loving, and visual seeking people.
“There’s something in it for everyone, irrespective of gender and background.”
One thing seems for sure: You can’t watch this work and not think about your own father.
I hope Liam doesn’t mind me sharing this, but at this very point in time toward the end of the conversation, both of us were heading towards deadlines with our own sons – me to take mine to tennis lessons; and Julian, because he’d decided he wanted to be part of our interview.
This divine young human gave his thoughts about the tooth fairy, a spatula, and a shared love for the movie Frozen.
I genuinely don’t feel that our connection, Liam’s and mine, would have been complete without Julian being the wonderful, energetic, and completely loved boy that he is.
Liam’s father has been unwell and won’t see In His Words until it begins at The Street Theatre for a three-day run from Friday, 23 June.
I was right, though. He is, and will be, so proud.
In His Words: Voices Of Fatherhood is on at The Street Theatre on 23 – 25 June, showing at 7:30pm on the 23rd and 24th, and 4pm on Sunday, 25th. Tickets are $32 – $42 via the venue. In His Words was commissioned through The Street’s Early Phase program.