Tag Archives: Jane Phegan

LETTERS TO LINDY: A NATIONAL TOUR OF A COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

LETTERS TO LINDY                                                                                                                                                              Production photography: Lisa Tomasetti for Merrigong Theatre Company_

The vitriol hits you full on.  We knew it was there, it had to have been. While words like ‘murder’ impact hard, there is other sneaky vocabulary in there, ‘wilderness’ slides by in the middle of a sentence.  And should you see yourself in this opening assault, then you are in for a good old fashioned kick in the pants.  Despite the onslaught of thousands of LETTERS TO LINDY which threaten and accuse with a malignancy that only the anonymous can be truly capable of,  Lindy speaks directly to us with warmth and candour.  For this is a play drawn from a life, not just the 199 boxes of letters which are housed in the National Library, but interviews between Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and playwright Alana Valentine.

In 1980 Lindy and Michael Chamberlain’s daughter, Azaria, was taken by a dingo from their campsite near Ayres Rock, as it was called then.  For reasons that defy understanding Lindy Chamberlain became the focus of public attention.  It was some kind of national sport to discuss the event, the succeeding inquests, the trial, around backyard barbeques.  We didn’t have water coolers then but I can remember the first joke hit well before the first headline did.  There was an ownership in the Australian psyche and many took to pen and paper to give their opinion.  Lindy kept the letters, she still does, letters and emails and gifts all donated to scholarship. Continue reading LETTERS TO LINDY: A NATIONAL TOUR OF A COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS

LOST BOYS – A PRODUCTION FOR REMEMBERING

Production photography: Zak Kaczmarek

80, the program says 80.  “Why the hell hasn’t it come out… there must be people out there, like Tracy, who know.”  At a very civilised breakfast overlooking the lighthouse on the beach in Wollongong, my friend was getting really worked up, unusual given how much theatre she sees.  We had been to LOST BOYS the night before, it’s playing at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, and we were haunted by the physical beauty of the show and somewhat disoriented by the pervasive whiff of a slightly paranoid, hunted feeling.

Gay people were chased, beaten and killed by teenage gangs in Sydney beachside suburbs from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s and LOST BOYS, from writer Lachlan Philpott, has crash tackled and wrestled the issue into the limelight.  Though there have been other TV and theatre around the topic, LOST BOYS puts the perpetrators front and centre with a chilling normalcy. Continue reading LOST BOYS – A PRODUCTION FOR REMEMBERING

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY : A MARVELLOUSLY COHESIVE PRODUCTION BY SIREN THEATRE COMPANY

Nothing is as it seems in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. From the obscuring haze of thick smoke as we enter the theatre to the delicately constructed dance of death that concludes the work, people and events are viewed through a glass darkly. A mirror, a lens, a dirty window pane perhaps. There is an obstinate obfuscation in Lachlan Philpott’s text and Director Kate Gaul has successfully pulled the story from the page without exposing it to the full light. Like the magnesium flashpowder of the antique photographer’s T which will give light to a sepia photograph, there are puffs of understanding dispersed in a stillness of wondering.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY is a highly theatrical interpretation of a true story. Harry Crawford was arrested in July 1920 for the October 1917 murder of his wife, Annie. Her charred remains had been found near the Lane Cove River at Chatswood where she and Harry had been picnicking. When taken to the police station, Harry asked to be taken to the female cells and it was revealed that he was in fact Eugenia Falleni, assigned female at birth. Harry had been living as cisgender man since he had run away to sea as a very young person.

The image on Siren CT’s poster is from the Historic Houses Trust held mugshot and there have been exhibitions and articles, books and podcasts about the case in our own time. But it is the morbid curiosity, malice and prurient interest of the public at the time of Harry’s trial that allows us so many records about the case. Continue reading THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY : A MARVELLOUSLY COHESIVE PRODUCTION BY SIREN THEATRE COMPANY

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE

Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr
Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr

Using actual transcripts and wiretaps from the ICAC hearings into Wollongong Council lends THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE a gripping sense of immediacy. The corruption saga had a heady mix of bribes, sex, developers, ICAC impersonators and threats of violence. We are voyeuristically entertained with numerous scenarios from this tawdry media sensation.

This innovative production by Version 1.0 and Merrigong Theatre Company makes use of a wonderful set and video presentations. The audience is greeted by large blocks of colour dominating the rear of the stage and during the play these alternate between actual video footage and cartoon like representations of Wollongong streetscapes, greenfield sites and proposed developments. Sean Bacon’s visuals are quite stunning. The use of large plastic toy blocks is a colourful and clever device.

The actors play various characters and as they are often reciting ICAC transcripts it is very clear who they are portraying. “Mr Vellar, can you explain to the court…..etc”. There are also video screens further explaining who is speaking and in what particular context. Occasionally the actors will address the audience.

There is an opening address by Russell Kiefel explaining that these type of events could only happen in Wollongong, until the other actors, Angela Bauer, Jane Phegan, Kym Vercoe and Arky Michael chime in with “or Port MacQuarie, or (very topically) Ryde, or Randwick, or Burwood.” It is tacitly conceded that corruption in local government is widespread.

The performances are consistently strong and engaging. Kym Vercoe’s performance as Beth Morgan, the town planner who had sexual relations with two of the developers, starts out as confident and enjoying the expensive gifts she receives for assisting with planning applications before deteriorating into a scared and nervous wreck. Arky Michael’s performance as corrupt developer Frank Vellar captures the hubris and confidence of such a colourful character. Russell Kiefel’s Rod Oxley, General Manager of Council, has the audience almost believing that his unlawful practices were really in the best interests of Wollongong.

There are many laughs in this play, mostly from the outrageous behaviour of the main protagonists. At other times the mood is dark and threatening as the criminals exert menace and pressure on the corrupt and vulnerable.

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE runs until July 21 at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose.