The Scene: 1. is the Toulon harbour near Digne in south east France (near Monaco) in 1815.There followed 1825 scenes in Paris and Montreuil-sur-Mer (in the North West near Calais).The Set: The Orchestra was at the rear of the stage on a platform, two metres off the stage floor. Large props were stored beneath. The black gauze that hid the orchestra acted as a projection screen for Benedict Chau’s stills.The stage floor had a blue-grey painted cobblestone fan pattern, a huge amount of artwork but most effective and worthwhile.Designer Owen Davis is renowned for his highly realistic sets. The construction team must have been truly dedicated and often left wondering ‘why did we volunteer?’ But Owen’s concepts are ingenious, and the resultant satisfaction must have been highly rewarding. The production’s sets were as good as the professional touring companies; in fact, I would even go a step further and say ‘better’. Owen designed a bridge, a huge ship’s mast, a dock yard, slums, a wealthy gated home, a wedding reception and a revolutionary headquarters. Every set could move so quietly that performers – like Javert – carried on with their monologues undisturbed.There was an excellent handcart, but when a full sized, functional ox cart arrived on the stage and managed to lose a wheel on cue, this was clever designing.The house on the left was a two-storey lathwork premises; the wood having a natural weathered appearance. This set was like a book, the house front swung around to reveal the bawdy inn and brothel within. The tables and benches looked as though they were solid oak, but the crew and cast seemed to move them and the large crates etc. around easily. There were doors leading to the parlours of love. The staircase and balcony were of solid construction, being proved by the energetic romantic couple on the landing.Although Shelly Miller has many productions to her credit, faced with one of the most ambitious shows that any group can put on, she was pleased to get extra advice from Don Allen and Mike Hart. The complex lighting design started with the proscenium curtains being illuminated in the French flag’s red, white and blue. There then followed 150-minutes of tight spotlight operation (Lachlan Kessey, Bailey Fellows), the LEDs were used to the full with narrow beams, subtle colours and clever lighting levels. Fine work by Shelly.The complex sound design was the incredible work of Guy Jackson. The design included a 15-piece, beautifully balanced orchestra, and two dozen microphone headsets (courageously managed by Suzy-June Wakeling) along with the usual sound effects and recorded music. The sound operators Chelsea Cook and Jade Gurney handled the whole task with a gentle hand. One sound channel seems to be overloading a speaker which was popping and close to blowing, but this is a technical glitch not an operator’s fault.Stage manager Rob Warner was assisted by Emily Brown and an amazing stage crew (Suzy June Wakeling, Sarah Zuiddam, David Zuiddam and Jacqui Warner) who were incredibly silent in their scenery movement. Some of the sets were massive, but thanks to the skills of set designer Owen Davis the large items were mounted on quality wheels and castors. This meant that even the construction of the large barricade took less than a minute, with most scene changes taking only 20 – 30 seconds. Tremendous work. The dozens of props, including the usual hats, bags, church furniture and alter treasures were sourced and selected by Lesley Sutton. However, this show required numerous daggers and knives, then of course the four-kilogram muskets. These replicas were superbly crafted by Raymond Egan, looked most authentic and certainly added to the reality of the drama.With such a large cast (almost 50) and so many set movements the safety of the dozen youngsters had to be taken into consideration and so Kylie Barr and Emma Redgwell became child wranglers.
After 19 years in jail for stealing bread, Jean Valjean (Paul Hayward) is released. Rejected by society, the old Bishop Myriel of Digne (John Taylor) takes Valjean in, feeds him and shows mercy. However, Valjean runs off with the church’s silverware. The police capture Valjean, but the Bishop pretends that he gave it to him; he is released. The Bishop points out that his life has been ‘spared for God’ and that he must become an honest man. When Valjean steals a coin from a young boy, who reports Valjean the police. If caught again, as a reoffender he will be hung; and so, he assumes a new identity – Monsieur Madeleine.
An attractive Parisian grisette (a respectable working-class woman) and single parent, Fantine (Catherine Archer) is wrongly arrested. Her small child, Little Cosette (Emmy Bekink) who has been left in the daytime care of the local innkeepers, cruel Madame Thénardier (Cassy Eaton) and corrupt Monsieur Thénardier (Alan Markham). Their own five children include a daughter Éponine (Charlize Gosnell) and a son Gavroche (Felix Steinwandel).
Ten years later Valjean owns businesses and becomes Mayor. He confronts the ardent police inspector, Javert (Chris Gerrish) – who started his career as a guard in Valjean’s prison – over Fantine’s harsh punishment. Later, Javert sees Valjean rescuing a man trapped under a cartwheel in Paris, but Valjean escapes again. Javert recognises Valjean the Mayor, and tells the authorities, but respectable Valjean denies Javert’s ravings and demands the release of Fantine. Fantine finds work at ‘Monsieur Madeleine’s Bakery’, but a supervisor discovers that she has an illegitimate daughter and Fantine is sacked.
With the Thénardiers’ constant demands for money, Fantine becomes ill. Valjean rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers and takes Cosette to see her mother in hospital but Javert arrives and again announces that Valjean is an escaped convict. Valjean is sent back to prison but escapes. Valjean he treats Cosette as his daughter.
The Thénardiers’ own daughter Éponine was pampered as a child and understood Cosette’s miserable situation in the house. However, Éponine sadly becomes another street kid.
In the park, Cosette (Marli van der Bijl) now a young lady, meets a law student Marius (Nic Millar) who wrongfully believes that the wicked innkeeper saved his father’s life. Cosette falls in love with this anti-Orléanist, then Marius finds himself in love with Cosette, not realising that Éponine is madly in love with him too.
Compelling Enjolras (Thomas Dimmick), the leader of the Paris uprising has regretfully enlisted a drunk, who idolises Gavroche, the eldest son of the Thénardiers. Gavroche has been a street urchin, but now fights on the barricades. Javert turns up at the barricades, pretending to be a revolutionary, but one day Gavroche spots him amongst their followers, and informs Enjolras that Javert is a spy.
ENSEMBLE: Ben Anderson, Ali Ball, David Bell, Isabella Bourgault, Alyssa Burton, Emma Caddy, Rhett Clarke, Owen Collins, Erin Craddock, Owen Davis, Kody Fellows, Sharyn Fleming, Azza Gee, Saoirse Gerrish, Keaton Humphreys, Brittany Isaia, Rhianna Lashin, Mathew Leak, Clara Lee, Jemima Lee, Heather Mackay, Felix Malcolm, Grant Malcolm, Lilly Miller, Luke Miller, Sarah Ozanne, Tahli Redgwell, Tim Sadleir, John Saxon, Emily Schinkel, Mel Scott, Liam Tickner, Rachel Vonk, Megan West and Tamara Wolf.With prize-winning Director Joe Isaia and his equally talented Assistant Director, Jacqui Warner were both determined not to settle for second best. The cast has no dead wood; every performer was well above community theatre level, with most of the leads at the professional level. Even every youngster – Emmy and Felix were particularly magnificent – moved around the crowded stage, spoke clearly, knew their lyrics and sang in unison (no half-hearted miming). Everyone knew in advance their next position on the stage, and with a massive cast and scenery this had to be deeply ingrained. The pace was rapid throughout never flagging once but more important the energy of the actors was breathtaking.Choreographer Arianah Isaia along with the waltz instructor Amy Davis had great fight sequences and interaction. The directors employed every metre of the auditorium and stage, from the aisles to the aprons this helped make the audience become part of the Revolution.WAAPA trained Musical Director Tara Oorjitham was faced with almost three dozen musical numbers, each main character having their own intricate musical personality. The strong cast managed to integrate the comic and brutal flawlessly. As the storyline changed from quiet love to tragedy, from whispering to the screams of the barricades, their singing was glorious. Terrific work by the musical director.With some songs from famous musicals, there is a subconscious expectation of quality and style. Valjean, Cosette, Éponine and Fantine had heartbreaking songs which they performed with tremendous depth of emotion. Then Enjolras, Javert and Marius were stirring with their inspiring and galvanising vocal leadership.The whole cast gave us sadness and tension, intermingled beautifully with the delightful, skilfully presented humour of the Thénardiers.The Band members covered 16 different instruments: on reed – Courtney Podmore, Erynn Bye, Caitlin Burke, Jeni Stevens; on brass – Alan Cressie, Jeni Stevens, Tilly Hermann-Ralph, Paul Marion: on keyboard – Jo Keenan, Emma Davis: percussion – Tegan LeBrun, Caleigh Rhee: on strings – Patrick Meyer, Megan Partridge, Cristina Filgueira, Hanae Wilding, Brian Chang, Amanda Reynolds, Kiara Burke and Brody Manson. For months Jo Keenan also wore out her fingers as rehearsal pianist.Wardrobe mistress, Marjorie DeCaux is a true glutton for punishment. With a massive cast and each actor having several costumes the logistics must have been horrendous. The wardrobe assistants include Yvonne Miller, Anke Steinwandel, Angela Gerrish, Barbara Hughes, Linda Redman, Charlotte Meagher, Rebecca Jagot and Gill Lee.With a period piece like this, the correct wigs, hair and makeup are most important. Lynda Stubbs and her assistant Jen Bekink excelled in accuracy.Knowing Marloo Theatre to be one on WA’s best, I expected a valiant attempt but was actually blown away by the singing, costumes and set. This was a first-class production by any standard but brought to you at quarter of the price of the professional companies. When the whole audience gave a standing ovation, it caught the cast and technicians by surprise. Many congratulations.
The scene: Modern day in a small Welsh village.The sets: were highly mobile units on castors, that were designed by Luke Miller and built by the cast and crew (along with Gillian Clark and Caitlyn Turner).The opening scaffold was a massive 3 metres high and 4 metres wide construction of weathered timber with gallows at the top.The Llewellyn’s’ sitting room had the seating and tables all attached to the walls and door. This allowed very quick scene changes. On the walls was a collection of small ink prints. The walls were pale apple green and the window was covered by curtains. On the rear of this construction was the Hubbards’ front hall. The white lace curtain covered the white window frame. The pictures on the wall were … well … I am too young to know what they were of, but it was part of the Hubbard’s hobby.Even the piano was attached to the piano stool so that Ann could be wheeled in and out without her missing a note.The town pub had a well-stocked bar counter with backlit shelves that were the full width of the stage. There was a selection of high bar stools.The props were once again the task of the resourceful Lesley Sutton.The clever lighting design was by Shelly Miller, then rigged and operated by Lachlan Kessey and Bailey Fellows.The quality sound was operated by Jonathan Masterson.The stage manager, Sage Lockyer and her backstage crew (Shelly Miller, Jade Gurney, Chelsea Cook, Benedict Chau and Ray Egan) performed most efficient scene changes. The wheels and castors used, despite the often-huge weight being carried, seemed to flow effortlessly.
The curtains open to show the last few seconds of a community theatre’s version of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. It is a discordant cacophonous ending to a poorly produced show, that many of the cast were reluctant to perform in.We flash back several weeks and find a young widower, Guy Jones (Guy Jackson) arriving at a chaotic rehearsal of the local amateur operatic society. After a tragic few months, this extremely nervous accountant has come to the remote Welsh village to start a new life with the Town Council.The production’s director is a dodgy lawyer, with a passion for the theatre, Dafydd ap Llewellyn (Mike Moshos). He always has a smile, but it is insincere and often his bad temper has the company revolting against him. He welcomes guy and offers him a very minor part.Guy soon finds that many of the women in the Operatic Society are bored with their husbands, especially the sophisticated but sex-starved Fay Hubbard (Kelly Blee – hilarious, dangerous!), wife of Ian (Benedict Chau) who owns a building firm. Dafydd’s wife, Hannah (Steph Hickey) welcomes the lonely newcomer to the fold.The bar owner’s tough daughter, Bridget Baines (Suzy June Wakeling) is the stage manager and prompt who will take no nonsense, especially from soppy Linda Washbrook (Jordan D’Arcy). Linda’s parents are in the Society, but mainly to promote their daughter’s talents. Linda’s father, Ted (Ryan Perrin) is enthusiastic but pure ham! Whilst Enid (Rachel Vonk), is Linda’s her overprotective mother.The rehearsals continue with the shy tolerant piano player, Mrs Ames (Ann Cahill) being wheeled in and out as required. The haughty-taught Rebecca Huntley-Pike (Taneal Thompson) is furious that her talent is not being recognised. Rebecca’s husband, a mad but harmless down to earth Yorkshireman, Jarvis Huntley-Pike (Ray Egan) befriends Guy.It is not long before Guy is being offered a better part, with substance – this causes friction with Crispin Usher (Kieren Elliott) tough, hostile youth who originally had the major part of MacHeath.
The modern and period costumes were the hard but fine work of Marjorie DeCaux and her assistant Lynda Stubbs, who also looked after the wigs and hairstyling.First time director Luke Miller, after a couple of decades of proving his talent as an actor, has shone as the director of this play. The play has a few unlikeable characters in it which make it hard to direct. Just as the team are building up a few laughs, the unusual script can take a cold or sad twist. However, the cast really got behind the show, packed it with drive and energy. Luke has Shelly Miller as his experienced assistant director.There are many fine singers, who at times must try hard to be off key as the Society is definitely second rate. Kieren and Steph are particularly melodic.Mike Moshos has completely captured the complex nature of Llewelyn. He is a bully, a charmer, a conman and a caring husband. Mike kept the pace moving along, had tremendous vocal control and authority. Well done. Mike also learnt a very acceptable Welsh accent that he maintained well throughout the play, impressive – often actors let accents slip after the first scene. Congratulations on the pronunciation of Llewellyn, not quite there. Starts ‘clue’ which you got as the sound for double-L, but as there is a further double-L in the name, the end should be ‘ech-lyn’, i.e. Clue-ech-lyn. I am open to correction. Guy was delightful as the petrified newcomer being hunted by women after new meat.A huge amount of work has gone into this show and the cast really put their hearts into it. Great fun.
The scene: It is 1941 in the living-room of the Brewster family home in Brooklyn, New York.The set: is another George Boyd special. The huge amount of work combined with an eye for detail that goes into his sets amazes me. To the side there is a glazed timer front door with lace curtains. A marble step leads down from the entrance to a carpeted living-room. An L-angled staircase overlooking the lounge, leads up to the bedrooms. The large bay window has a tree outside; there are gold curtains and a window box seat.In most plays a kitchen door would invariably lead into a black abyss, but George always has a room behind the door. Although hardly seen, the kitchen was fitted out with cupboards and shelves of pottery. Another door under the stairs led down to the cellar. The walls are painted with the popular arsenic green colour of the day.The set building team were mainly George Boyd, Benedict Chau, Ray Egan, Bailey Fellows, Richard Hadler, Michael hart and Luke Miller.The properties were top quality with a teak bureau, settee, hat rack, dining table and matching chairs. A sideboard with crystal decanters on the top.Stage managers Belinda Beatty and George Boyd were highly efficient. Continuity aid from Sandra Sando.The lighting design included electric lights, candles and a moon glow through the windows, in all cases Michael Hart had just right light level and colour temperature. The desk operator was Lachie Kessey. Most atmospheric.Brendan Tobin sound design included Hitchcock’s theme the ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’. Sound operator Jonathan Masterson.
Descended from Mayflower settlers, Mortimer Brewster (Richard Hadler) leads a good life. He is a drama critic for a major New York newspaper – often writing his reviews before even going to the shows (sounds familiar?). One day a young police officer, Officer Brophy (Billy Darlington) calls in for quick cuppa and a chat with the two old dears.Elaine Harper (Tracey Morrison) the daughter of a local minister, The Rev. Dr. Harper (Michael Hart) is madly in love with Mortimer. She lives next door to Mortimer’s two sweet, maiden aunts, Abbey (Jacqui Warner) and Martha Brewster (Kerry Goode). Neither passionate Elaine nor semi-interested Mortimer are too sure if they are already, or even should be, engaged to each other.Mortimer has a brother called Teddy (Ryan Perrin), an absolute nutcase who thinks believes he is Theodore Roosevelt with the responsibility for the world on his shoulders. Abbey and Martha take in male lodgers, who like Mr Gibbs (Raymond Egan) are alone in the world; the two aunts then caringly ‘look after’ these gentlemen, starting with a drop of ‘special’ home-made elderberry wine, before burying them in the cellar.One night, after twenty years on the run, Mortimer’s long-lost brother Jonathan Brewster (Benedict Chau) a murderous maniac arrives at the house with his partner in crime, a struck off plastic surgeon, Dr. Einstein (Harrison MacLennan). They are quickly followed by a local policeman Officer O’Hara (David Seman) who, unaware of the strange company and circumstances, starts to ask Mortimer for advice on writing his novel.What will happen to this strange bunch of assassins? Can Mortimer shield his aunts and protect his fiancée?
Marjorie DeCaux magicked a fabulous collection of opulent costumes. Docuprint’s programme was designed by Guy Jackson around Geoff Stribley’s graphic cover design. The font and artwork made the overall effect perfect for the era.Director Brendan Tobin has skilfully given us a VERY well-rehearsed cast, each of whom knew their personalities perfectly. Thankfully, every performer had the same soft American accent. The two delightful aunts, with their calm innocent temperament, contrasted hilariously with the pandemonium of the others. Tracey in her first serious acting role was outstanding. The cast worked as a team, perfect chemistry and a cracking pace. The production was slick and superbly presented with the confused bungling panic that is expected in farces.Michael was totally unrecognisable being clean shaven – and with shoes on! He played his two parts brilliantly.Congratulations to every actor in making this play a major success. A rare all-round seamless production.
The play was adapted for the stage, three years ago by Melbournian Tom Wright, on behalf of Black Swan and The Malthouse.
Incredibly, she was in her seventies before this play was published. Although the story reads as a true event, only the Hanging Rock is true. The final crucial and resolving chapter of the book was posthumously published in 1987, being called the ‘The Secret of Hanging Rock’. (SPOILER alert – clue, time warp)
This highly respected play is being presented by the Darlington Theatre Players, at the Marloo Theatre, Greenmount each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings at the NEW EARLIER time of 7.30, until Saturday 16th March. A Sunday matinée at 2.00 pm on 3rd and on 10th March.
The scene: St. Valentine’s Day in 1900, at Appleyard College – a girls’ aristocratic boarding school, near Hanging Rock (which is a mamelon – a plugged, extinct volcano) 70 kms north-west of Melbourne.
The set was designed by Owen Davis: The theatre has a very high proscenium arch, which for this show was ideal. It allowed a massive granite cliff to be constructed on each side of the stage, forming a narrow pass in the Rock. The colour and surface of the rocks were most realistic. In the centre of the stage was a 4 metre by 4 metres, art gallery-style gold picture frame; On the opening scene it showed a picture of the last school picnic at the rock some 30 years earlier. This picture disappeared and the framed black cloth acted as a screen for the title of each scene. The black picture looked like a void, or black hole with the vertical slot in the centre it allowed the characters to come and go – to another time? The numerous period props were supplied by Lesley Sutton.
Shelly Miller’s lighting was beautifully designed to give maximum creepiness. In one scene the Headmistress walked across the theatre in front of the stage, and a series of fixed spotlights individually followed her as she went. The subtle music was ethereal, an amazing choice. Guy Jackson and Rob Whitehead designed the sound. The understated sound effects presented us with a soft wind passing through the gap in the rocks – or was it in fact the rocks breathing? As they wafted the children into the void. The reference to time is emphasised with the tick tock of a Grandfather clock.
The stage management was swift and efficient thanks to Jade Gurney and Chelsea Cook, who were ably assisted by Charlotte Meagher and Jonathan Masterson.
It is 1900, and one of the schoolgirls (Suzy June Wakeling) tells us how cruel and uninviting Australia is. The first two scenes are spoken as monologues, with a dozen characters talking to the audience, explaining the happenings of the fatal day. Mrs. Appleyard (Elizabeth Offer), the school’s headmistress and owner, is a haughty and uncaring woman that life has passed by, so now relies upon her medicinal drinks and bullying poor thirteen years old Sara (Lilian Alejandra Valverde, amazingly aged only 16) for her pleasure.The coachman, Albert Crundall (Rachel Vonk), drops the children off at the Rock. They have their picnic lunch, then Miranda and her schoolfriends, Edith, Irma, and Marion climb the monolith. The mathematics mistress, Miss McCraw follows behind them. Soon, Edith is rushing down the hill shouting that Miranda, Marion, and Irma have all vanished, only to find that Miss McCraw has also disappeared. All the school’s children search but no one is found. Suspecting abduction or kidnap, the police (Brittany Isaia) are called in without a successful resolution.The second Act begins at the first picnic, 30 years earlier, as depicted in the oil painting on the school wall. A young man (Suzy June Wakeling) explains to the audience what a cruel place Australia is. There then follows a similar series of events to 1901, with girls of the same name and many characters with matching circumstances. Could these possibly be the same people we have already met? In a different time? The snooty headmistress is losing children, either by disappearance or being withdrawn by the parents because of the poor education. Even the faithful but frightened domestic staff are leaving.
I have seen this play / film three times before, and always left saying ‘What a load of rubbish. No end. No idea what that was about!’ Reluctantly, I travelled 45 minutes to see this ‘dreaded play’. However, with this new adaptation by Tom Wright, and five magnificent performers playing several parts each, they clearly postulate what happened on that fateful day. At last the story meant something. Director Rob Whitehead has full comprehension of the play and has the talent to bring it to the stage.
Marjorie DeCaux’s costumes for the first Act had the girls in a brown school kilt, white blouse, brown tie and a straw boater. These outfits were worn for the whole Act, irrespective of the person they were playing. In the second half the girls wore crinoline and lace, with the headmistress wearing a silk gown. One girl wore a man’s tweed outfit. Perfect.
Rob has chosen a magnificent cast. Each girl (they actually about 21 yrs. Old, not teenagers) was required to change characters, accent, gender, and mental state several times throughout each Act. Each performer did this with perfect pace, clear diction and conviction. Jaw dropping, flawless performances despite the tongue-twisting script.
One final tip. Wear an incontinence pad, you will need it.
This show is bound to receive several award nominations. So glad that I got to see this special version of the unique story. An outstanding production and a MUST SEE.