13
May
12

Edythe Brooke Cooper Playwriting Competition

UPDATE:

Congratulations to all involved in staging Sharon Durley’s Pieces

Best Actor (Harry Bayliss)

Best Actor (Susie Pritchard)

Best Director (Paul barrs)

Best Play

 

Congrats also to David Coleman and co

winner of the Audience Choice Award for Sue Sewell’s Once Bitten

 

The 3 winning one-act plays, from the inaugural 
Edythe Brook Cooper playwriting competition.

Thicker Than Water  a drama by Neil Ronald Anderson from Victoria, Directed by Jacqui Mata Luque, Once Bitten a light drama by Sue Sewell from Buderim, Directed by David Coleman, Pieces  a drama by Sharyn Anne Durley from Dayboro, Directed by Paul Barrs.
 Three stories that explore life’s questions of love, aging, death, duty and family.

Edythe Brook Cooper Playwriting Competition

BATS Inc.

Buderim Memorial Hall

12th May – 18th May

Thicker Than Water

By Neil Anderson

Directed by Mary Newton

“Geez!” There’s some stilted dialogue and deliberate gesture in this, the first of the three finalists in the Edythe Brook Cooper Playwriting Competition; it’s the declamatory style that comes from inexperience. Unfortunately, the overall effect was unnatural communication between the characters. Projection was a problem for the boys playing the two sons (Alex Tillack and Dominic Morley) but we have to remember that, in this space, like so many community halls used as theatres, the sound gets a little lost in spaaaaace!

More specifically though, actors need to work on voices that come from intent and not just from their knowledge of the lines. Who is it you’re speaking to? What does that person mean to you? What are you communicating to them (this is not always just what you’re saying!)? Who is working with new performers on this?!

The clipped consonants coming from the boys sound super polite and normally I love a bit of good, clear enunciation but this time it doesn’t fit, particularly when their father, Ross (Michael Parlato) grimaces and mumbles much of the time. He’s perfectly typically Australian and we miss a lot of what he’s saying. I felt similarly about his performance in Bruce Olive’s award-winning play, A Knock at the Door. I’d like to see Parlato loosen up next time. This might help the less experienced actors to connect with him. We needed a slightly stronger connection between he and PJ Grabbe’s character, the girlfriend, Ruth. Has she been told to turn away from him? Her posturing seems diametrically opposed to what she wants to do in the scene, which is to make him stay for the night. PJ has some good, natural reactions and we warm to him as he warms to her.

It’s interesting staging, seating the couple – Parlato and Elisa Sanchez – at the table in the restaurant without facing each other. Sitting facing the audience looked (and must have felt) completely unnatural. At this point, PJ makes a cameo appearance in a Pretty Woman style wig! Her role in this scene, in addition to that of Wendy Marks as the waitress, who recognises Greg from the newspaper, is redundant. While Sanchez gives a lovely, sweet performance, she also demonstrates the rookie error that we have seen from everybody else in this cast: she suddenly breaks away from Parlato’s embrace and directly addresses the audience. “Hey! What are we going to tell our friends and relatives?!” These two seem to want to linger together but may have been told to do otherwise. There is no chance in the scene to explore that renewed relationship and the intimacy and sexual attraction that sparks it, even though it’s there in the lines. It seems a shame not to go there.

In terms of the writing, there’s a little too much exposition, leaving nothing to the audience’s imagination. Bryce Courtney says don’t explain or describe everything. I remember hearing Courtney explain a writing exercise, which he gives to his new students. They are instructed to write, “It was a beautiful morning in Africa.” And that’s all. Readers have their own version or vision of “a beautiful morning in Africa”. It’s a good lesson for playwrights.

Once Bitten

By Sue Sewell

Directed by David Coleman

Once Bitten is the one comedy of the three finalists. This staging is better, more balanced, than the first and the company appears to be better rehearsed (or more relaxed). The lines flow more easily, making it easy for us to enjoy the pace and humour of the piece. Director, David Coleman, shows genuine trust in his actors by allowing them time in each scene to listen to each other and respond in a natural manner.

Pamela Burchall is a joy to watch; her take on the main character, Pixie, is delightful and she’s very natural and comfortable in the role. On opening night we listened patiently while she stumbled through a lengthy monologue, which gradually revealed the events leading to the death of her husband but I’m sure this won’t happen again. Overall, Burchall offers an endearing and amusing performance, her attitude towards each of her daughters giving us a glimpse into the differing relationships and keeping it real when the premise, which I won’t give away, is really, superbly over-the-top and ridiculous. She says to her daughter, “I’m sixty, Abbie, what does life hold for me?” which sets up the lovely notion that, despite the jeers and judgments of others, when it comes to improvising a bucket list, anything is possible.

There is terrific sibling rivalry at play and a great connection between the daughters (Kathryn Barnes and Megan Mackander). Lee, played by Mackander is a fabulous force once she settles and audiences will enjoy her brash performance very much as her cynical and rapidly fired one-liners provide much of the comedy. Again there appears to be a little out-front delivery from a couple of cast members. Is this deliberate? Is there some fear that we will miss a gag? Whatever happened to the fourth wall?!

Sue Sewell’s plot unravels nicely, offering us, like a pass the parcel, one surprise after another. The audience thoroughly enjoys it.

Oliver Osborne, who plays Harry, is the youngest cast member in the season and he does an excellent job. He is just enough and some of the adults can learn from his self-assurance, focus and stillness on stage. He is certainly one to watch.

A different play would have ended with “I’m ready…” (When you see it you’ll see what I mean). Of course there is a twist, though and it’s a good one, however, as previously mentioned, it was hard work on opening night to get there! Luckily for Burchall (and the playwright), she finishes strongly, delivering the punch line with aplomb!

This play is likely to be the audience favourite.

Pieces

By Sharyn Durley

Directed by Paul Barrs

The final play in the program is Sharyn Durley’s Pieces, directed by Paul Barrs. It has the Paul Barrs stamp on it and that’s not a bad thing. It works.

An interesting opening, a young soldier, Tim (Harry Bayliss) visits Nan (n.b. not his nan) in her home, which we know from the program to be an “assisted care” facility. A nurse visits her from time to time, you know, to make sure she’s still there and kicking. Nan, played by Susie Pritchard, is sharp of tongue and terribly cynical. Her dry humour should be funnier. I guess we all know old people like that…old people who should be funnier. The staging is mostly static and it mostly works. Good listening, Bayliss.

A nice relationship develops between the two and as Nan procrastinates, not wanting to complete her jigsaw puzzle, the performers work hard building and defusing tension to give us a rather complicated story.

Newcomer, Virginia Moriones, as Nurse Patricia, is simply gorgeous. From Spain, she has an accent we love to hear and her delivery is clear enough. Moriones’ energy is the kind we need to see more of in Sunshine Coast community theatre; she glows. We also see some nice work from another newcomer, Alys Gwillim (young Nan), who shows sensitivity as well as a sense of drama in the role.

Don’t leave before casting your vote for the Audience Choice Award!

Reading Panel: Ian Austin, Glenda Connors and Peta Beattie

Performance Adjudicator: Keith Souter

Season concludes May 19th 2012. Book online.

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1 Response to “Edythe Brooke Cooper Playwriting Competition”


  1. May 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Thanks Xanthe, your critique is very encouraging. I am looking forward to tonight but well aware that the show ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. Susie P is a force to be reckoned with!!


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