Tag Archives: Debbie Smith



Production images: Chris Dunn

THE ELEPHANT MAN playing at PACT is a production which takes its responsibilities very seriously.  Avoiding any gratuitousness, it foregrounds the human spirit with respect for the material and a balance of storytelling and philosophy.  And a great deal of hard work for such a short season.  

Most people would know the story of Joseph Merrick, in this play named as John Merrick, known as The Elephant Man when he made a living being displayed in carnivals.  The 1981 film has a definitive performance by John Hurt as Merrick and Anthony Hopkins as his doctor Frederick Treves but the 1977 play by Bernard Pomerance has a different ethos.   Equally compassionate and compelling, the play is ultimately about the inability of science to be as great as religion. But it still relies on 2 important central performances. Continue reading THE ELEPHANT MAN: PLACED BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION


The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance at PACT Centre                                                                                  William Jordan as Ross (top); Nicholas Gledhill as Treves (left); Harley Connor as Merrick (centre); Marty O\’Neill (right).                                                                                                                                            Photo by Emma Wright.

The Tony award-winning drama THE ELEPHANT MAN comes to PACT Centre for Emerging Artists for a limited season this August (5 performances only).

Set in Victorian England, "The Elephant Man" tells the tale of John Merrick, a hideously deformed man with a soul of perfection. Born with a genetic disorder, which made his head, right arm and right leg grossly large, his skin loose and smelly, he is ridiculed by all and left to languish in a freak show. 

Merrick is saved by Frederick Treves, a well-meaning doctor, who gives him refuge in a London hospital, where he lives out his life and is befriended by London's glitterati who are drawn to his sweet disposition and intelligent mind.

The production is directed by Debbie Smith and featuring Harley Connor as John Merrick ,”The Elephant Man”, and Nicholas Gledhill as Dr Frederick Treves.

THE ELEPHANT MAN [Facebook]  from Exit Game Productions will play at PACT August 22 – 25. Bookings at Trybooking.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Genesians

Jack McMahon as Demetrius and Catherine Davies as Helena. Photography by Mark Banks
Jack McMahon as Demetrius and Catherine Davies as Helena. Photography by Mark Banks

At first glance over the program and cast list for this production, the feint-hearted traditionalist could be excused for having some concerns. Shakespeare’s classic is now to be seen through Australian eyes, with ‘Beach Bums’ and ‘Hippies’ replacing the Players and Fairies.

However such fears are short lived. Any potential cringing is replaced with sheer enjoyment. Debbie Smith’s beautifully bright beach-to bush set and well-directed cast burst off the stage making us quickly at home. The reworking succeeds and the increased humour is performed with slick precision along the way. Continue reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Genesians


The cast of DANGEROUS CORNER. Pic Craig O'Regan
The cast of DANGEROUS CORNER. Pic Craig O’Regan

The new play at the inner city Genesian Theatre Company is a revival of DANGEROUS CORNER (1932), by the great British writer, J.B. Priestly, better known for his classic 1946 play, AN INSPECTOR CALLS.

Described in the publicity as, ‘part whodunit, part thriller’, the play’s artful premise comes across clearly;- Live a superficial life, a life of appearances, and you stand a fair chance of leading a good life. When you start digging under the surface of things, watch out…You never know where it can lead, and what darkness and turmoil you will find… One thing can lead to another, and you can end up with a disaster on your hands!

Priestly’s main characters are Freda and Robert Caplan, a happy, hospitable, middle-aged couple who are enjoying life at their pleasing country retreat. The play starts with them hosting a soiree for their colleagues, and partners, who work with them at  a transatlantic publishing company. Everything is just going dandy until… Freda questions one of her guests Olwen about a casual remark she made that has ramifications for her brother-in-law Martin’s sudden death… Freda wants to know the truth. The thing is that when you start probing for the truth, it’s like going around a dangerous corner at high speed…

Secret longings, intrigues, scandals come tumbling out at a rate of knots. As one character remarks to her partner, ‘it’s a wonder that we have any secrets left at all’. Her comment brought to mind the old 1972 Carly Simon song ‘We Have No Secrets’- ‘and though we know each other better than we explore/Sometimes I wish/Often I wish/That I never knew some of those secrets of yours’.

The play tends to melodrama at times and is a little dated in some of the dialogue such as when a character casually refers to assaulting his wife.

Peter Lavelle’s revival serves Priestly’s play well and he provides with very clear direction. His set, designed with Debbie Smith, plants the audience firmly in bourgeois London 1930’s with its art deco gold and black arches, two low level, plush sofas, a radiogram  with a veneered console, an art nouveau onyx statue featuring a naked woman holding an orb, and a King George 5th coin enlargement hanging on the back wall. The costumes, by Peter Henson, were plush and elegant, a highlight being Olwen’s backless black gown.

The cast put in authentic performances playing Priestly’s well-drawn characters.

Tom Massey and Elinor Portch played party hosts, Robert and Freda Caplan. Massey convincingly conveyed how his characters’ sunny, trusting nature steadily lost its gloss. Portch depicted well how Freda remained the genteel host, keen to offer sandwiches even in the heat of conflict.

John Willis-Richards and Amy Fisher, showing a strong stage presence, played the other couple, Gordon and his not so angelic wife young wife, Betty.

Elizabeth McGregor played the central character of Olwyn Peel whose of-hand remark at the play’s beginning was the catalyst for the dynamic set of revelations.

John Grinston played Charles Trevor Stanton whose good character quickly comes under scrutiny. Kirsty Jordan played the circumspect novelist, Maud Mockridge.

A satisfying revival of Priestly’s engaging, substantial drama,  Peter Lavelle’s production of DANGEROUS CORNER opened at the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent Street, Sydney on July 6 and plays until August 10, 2013.