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Category Archives: Canberra Dramatics

Manly Mates

Sir Robert Askin was the longest-serving premier of New South Wales in the twentieth century… as long as you don’t count little Bobby Carr, who served eight months longer, but whose term unfortunately stretched into the twenty-first century. It will not be news to many that such petty distinctions actually matter to the ruling class. It certainly wasn’t to me; which is why, when Frank Hatherley’s play Manly Mates landed on my desk, I was keen to see it produced in Canberra.

A fictitious story based on posthumous accusations levelled at Askin, Hatherley’s play plonks the jovial premier into a hotbed of gambling, womanising and crime (sometimes consecutive, other times concurrent). Joined by stoners, journalists, cops and shonky American poker machine salesmen, the scene in the private Octopus Room at the Manly Hotel is all too reminiscent of more recent rumblings of the political machinery behind closed doors in both New South Welsh and federal politics.

For this production, which later came to be declared the last of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, I handed the reins to James Stevens, who has done a great job with an unwieldy script and a large cast on Tuggeranong’s small stage. The show rolls along from one laugh to the next, and on opening night, despite a slow start, they developed a full head of steam for the hilarious finale.

It is great to see Michael Miller, who has performed in many of Canberra Dramatics’ shows, reprise the role of Askin in the company’s final production; he has a swagger befitting any crooked premier, and is ably supported by Rebecca Nicholson, another veteran of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, as the enthusiastic Pat. Don Wilkinson also returned for this production, as did Robbie Matthews, and these friends were joined by a number of performers who had not performed with Canberra Dramatics before, most notably among them Margie Sainsbury who landed the enviable role of Lady Molly Askin, and lends her an air of forced grace.

Although I haven’t had a lot to do with this last production, it has been a pleasure to see some of the journey this cast and crew have taken. They struck me from the beginning as a very cohesive group, and I am especially glad that James Stevens took on the task of directing them. Cerri Davis, who has worked in a number of different capacities with Canberra Dramatics over the years, also did a fine job in her first role as Production Manager.

In all, it was a great pleasure to see this hilarious play staged in Canberra, and it is a great finale to five years of productions.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 27 January 2011 in Canberra Dramatics, Canberra Theatre, Pure Theatre, Theatre

 

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Thoughts on Directing ‘When He Was Famous’

Well it’s time for another first… but this is scary!

I have just handed over a show to my assistant director, Seth Robinson, before the last two dress rehearsals! Now, I can’t complain too much. I’ve done this because I’m off to Fiji to attend my nephew’s wedding, but it really is scary to think that this show will go on without me. Even at opening night!

It’s not that I don’t think the cast is ready; they could open tomorrow and be fine, I’m sure, but I’m not ready to let it go! I mean, I’ve slogged away for the last two months with them, and they’re about to step up and perform, and I won’t be there to enjoy it!

Still, that doesn’t mean the rest of Canberra shouldn’t; so if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, call the Tuggeranong Arts Centreand tell them you’re coming!

 

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Notes on Directing ‘Take Their Life’

I have just handed over the reins of my current project, Take Their Life, to the stage manager, Joyce Gore. I thought I was scared of directing anything of Shakespeare’s before, but now I’m even more scared because I no longer have any control over what happens!

I have learned an awful lot from the experience of directing a sacred cow. Having only directed new, or relatively new, works before, I’ve never had to deal with strongly-established and conflicting interpretations of character before. The principles are the same: you look for various interpretations and pick the one that best suits your needs, but when there is such a wide range of varying interpretations, and when some of those interpretations are so firmly entrenched from centuries of analysis, it can be a tough call to pick the one that best suits our purposes.

All directors say it, but it really has been a pleasure to work with such a talented cast. They’ve amazed me at times with their capacity to take an idea I’ve had about how a character should act or respond, and incorporate that into a holistic expression of a character, which essentially is nothing more than a concept. I have found it quite humbling to watch those characters emerge from vague and shadowy ideas in my head into characters who stand and walk about and interact as if they’re real people.

So next stop is opening night, when we turn Shakespeare’s sacred cow into a profane one. I hope people enjoy it, but really, the best part of the experience of profaning a sacred cow is over, and after nine months in development, I am both breathing a sigh of relief, and beginning to fret about letting it go.

Chookas, cast.

 

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