Wherever you look there’s something happening in Australian playwright Oriel Gray’s neglected classic THE TORRENTS. The play is set in a community newspaper called the Argus in the 1890’s in Koolgalla. The newspaper is run with an iron will by Rufus Torrent.
A new journalist JG Milford comes through the door. Rufus was expecting a young man and is taken aback when a young woman, Jenny Milford, walks through the door. Rufus wants her to leave but Jenny says she isn’t going anywhere. Will Jenny survive Rufus’s wrath, and the boys only culture at the Argus?!
Rufus not only has to cope with a headstrong young woman on staff but also with the protestations of Kingsley who wants the paper to get behind his scheme to make Koolgalla more economically sustainable with an eye to agriculture to give it a better chance to survive now that the gold mining is petering out. Rufus’ hands are tied. A mining magnate John Mason gives the paper a lot of financial support and without his money the paper might fold. Mason refuses to see any future for Koolgalla that doesn’t involve gold mining.Continue reading THE TORRENTS @ THE DRAMA THEATRE→
Very early on in THE SEASON, daughter Lou thinks out loud that she might take herself diving to get a fresh fish dinner. It makes sense; 3 generations of Duncans are gathered on this small island in the Bass Strait for the annual Muttonbird harvest. But the whole family around the rickety table is suddenly still then turn slowly to look at her. There’s a pause until unexpectedly, the Duncans, and us, burst into gales of laughter at Lou’s expense. We the audience don’t know Lou, we just met her but we have been enveloped by this family and we think whatever is going on is hilarious too.
In a nutshell, or more appropriately a nest, that is the brilliance of THE SEASON. We love these people. And we love them from the beginning.
After the seven cast appear from the shadows upstage reaching towards the spirit of the birds which come each year to these traditional lands, we meet Ben and Stella Duncan. Long married but still lovers, their hopes for this season are tinged with some undefined worry but it won’t stop them from enjoying every moment of having the family together for the birding season. Continue reading THE SEASON @ THE DRAMA THEATRE, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE→
Those of us old enough to remember responded to the reference to the TV test pattern colours on the 6 rear lit TV type screens rising from floor to ceiling both sides of the stage on the set of Metropolitan Players production of HAIRSPRAY. The colours of these screens changed with different scenes, complimenting and supporting settings for lounge rooms, school, the set of the Corny Collins Show, Motormouth Maybelle’s Record Shop, jail, Har-De-Har Hut and so many other spaces and places in a dizzy quick change magician wand type changeover of doors, glimmer curtains and cartoon places that one would have to see the show several times just to work it all out.
What a great story for a leading Australian theatre company like the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) to tell at this time! And what timing! Whilst the show was still playing, on Australia’s Day, Koori AFL star Adam Goodes was announced ‘Australian Of The Year’.
BLACK DIGGERS tell of how, at a time when Kooris in this country were treated as less than second class citizen without voting rights, more than 1,000 indigenous soldiers fought side by side alongside their white countrymen in the battlefields of the Great War- in Palestine, the Somme, Gallipoli and Flanders Fields. Some became highly decorated soldiers…
It was another chapter in Australia’s- ‘White Australia has a very black history’- that the treatment that Koori returned servicemen received was no different from what they were used to before they left for the War.
With such a tough story, it would have been very easy for the playwright Tom Wright and the director Wesley Enoch to come up with a depressing, even spiteful production. Not so….Instead they have come up with a vibrant production.
The show went for 100 minutes without break, allowing the actors to maintain their momentum. We closely followed the individual journeys of the soldiers.
There were some sixty scenes- some stand-outs…The scene where two Kooris walk into a pub. The publican blocks their entrance. ‘We don’t have Kooris here’. From inside the pub a guy they fought alongside in the war spots them. He comes up to them and says to the publican- ‘You let these guys in- they fought with me in the war- or I will have words to the RSL about you’. His two mates are let in.
The play’s setting authentically changes from pre-war Australia to the horrors of the trenches to a cold, ineffectual post war country, giving us ‘the whole picture’. There was humour amongst the men with them just trying to stay on top of things.
A feature of Stephen Curtis’s set design was the chalkboard walls. Through the play the cast would inscribe telling details on these walls- signifying time periods, locations and much more.
The cast were great, delivering strong performances. The team comprised George Bostock, Luke Carroll, David Page, Hunter Page-Lochard, Guy Simon, Colin Smith, Eliah Watego, Tibian Wyles and Meyne Wyatt.
This was a show that absolutely called for something special and powerful. Wesley Enoch and his team delivered.
A Sydney Festival and Queensland Theatre Company World Premiere production, BLACK DIGGERS played the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House from the 17th to the 26th January, 2014.
THE CAKE MAN was written and staged originally in the early 1970s, from the perspective of Aboriginal Australians, about life on a mission in country NSW. Forty years on, a contemporary staging remains relevant and poignant. There is nothing dated or unfamiliar about the characters and their plight, and therein lies the tragedy. Robert J. Merritt’s script is colourful and textured. It is also honest and brave, giving voice to the original occupants of our land who are now ethnic minorities as a result of systematic genocide over generations. Works of this nature are highly important, and fundamental to the rebuilding and atonements that need to be made.
Director Kyle J. Morrison’s use of space is sensitive, instinctual and intelligent. He creates a sense of campfire storytelling that draws us in, and the earthiness he evokes by keeping all actors on stage at all times, gives the production a rare intimacy and purity. The work has a beautiful languidness, but a couple of scenes could benefit from a tighter pace, or maybe slight edits would add further interest to the plot.
Young actor James Slee is certainly one to watch. He has a natural ease on stage, and performs with a kind of naturalism that is striking in its simplicity but also lively and passionate. Irma Woods is above all, a performer with great sincerity and authenticity. There is no sense of a character being put on, only the most thorough blurring of lines between actor and role. Luke Carroll in THE CAKE MAN shows himself to be one of the best actors of his generation. His charisma is undeniable, magnetic and powerful. His use of voice and movement is animated yet realistic, and completely delightful to watch. The fearlessness in Carroll’s portrayal of Sweet William elevates the play, giving it an emotional quality that all audiences will find irresistible.
At the heart of THE CAKE MAN is a burning desire for recovery, progression, and emancipation. It is a small morsel of the Aboriginal experience, but it encapsulates so much that is true in contemporary Australian lives, and so much that needs to be examined and advanced. We need stories like this, and we need them to propel from the fringes to the big, wide mainstream.
THE CAKE MAN is playing the Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills until Sunday December 8.
Suzy Wrong’s review was first published on her website covering the Sydney theatre scene- www.suzygoessee.com
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