09
Jun
12

2012 One-Act Play Festival

One-Act Play Festival

The 3 Finalists of the National One-Act Playwriting Competition

Noosa Longweekend & Noosa Arts Theatre

7th – 16th June 2012

Three Angry Brides

by Hugh O’Brien

Directed by Janine Ritchie

A ridiculous premise prepares us for the witty, cheeky chaos that ensues when three about-to-be-married couples are required to complete a “divorce course” before their nuptial day on the coming Saturday; the same day the visiting Reverend Hill has a golf game booked. Clearly, he is hoping they’ll all fail his unorthodox tests so he will get his golf game in.

John Woodlock (Reverend Hill) sets the pace and drives much of the dialogue in this 40-minute comedy. Noosa audiences most recently saw Woodlock as the marriage celebrant in Travelling North. This role, as the Reverend, gives him the opportunity to flesh out that “type” of character (and to flash a bit a lot of leg but I won’t give away the context). In addition, he is able to add a couple of funny traits to delight and amuse (and inspire some to cackle, yes, truly cackle with laughter on opening night!). Playwright, Debra Chalmers (author of the third play in the program), says what motivates her is “that wonderfully addictive sound of a laughing audience.” It’s contagious too, so you might find yourself LOLing almost immediately, when those around you begin to giggle. I’m a big fan of Hugh O’Brien’s work and it’s largely due to this ability, to set up very quickly, usually within the first three or four minutes, his characters and a clear plot so that no one is left wondering who anybody is or what will happen in the end. That’s not to say that the ending is spoilt or that there are no twists or surprises. If you’ve seen any of his award-winning plays in this competition (the winner in 2005 and 2007) or on the festival circuit, you’ll know what I mean.

Woodlock is supported exceptionally well by Nathan Hynes (Lex), who underplays appropriately while everybody else – an extremely young cast it seems – over-acts to the max. Interestingly, Adele Comber (Toraino. That’s Torana, you know, like the car, with an “i” added) notes in her bio that this is typical for her. Unlike Kate Perry (Laurel), at least she admits it. Comber shows us some nuance towards the end of the play and this is the interesting aspect of both the character and the actor. I look forward to seeing more from her. Steve Mitchell (Tom), as her significant other, brings a welcome shot of energy to the ensemble.

Rachel Halverson (Kylie), whom I recently saw in Peta Beattie’s 1912 – Titanic (BYTE Master Class Actors), is an absolute delight to watch. We’ll see her again in September on the Noosa Arts Theatre stage, as Louisa in The Fantasticks. She plays opposite Callum Hamacek (Kade) and there is something very sweet and absolutely terrifying about this young love, as if they are out to sabotage the relationship as a test of truth. In fact, that’s where the plot weaves, the Reverend offering each couple the chance to hurl insults at each other, call the ex up and ask them to dish up the dirt on their partner and finally, to toss into the wheelie bin, anything from childhood that may have played a part in destroying their ability to establish and maintain a responsible, loving, giving, “grown-up” relationship into which children will be welcomed and remain physically and emotionally unharmed. It’s symbolic, of course it is (it’s a PLAY. It’s the THEATRE.) but we get it. Yes! Yikes! Suddenly the context gets heavy and the audience feels they should perhaps consider the state of their own relationship, their own mental and emotional health and that of their children! It’s clever writing and in more experienced hands, this play could move a few to tears after all that jolly laughter.

Jannine Ritchie has directed O’Brien’s work before. If she is to do so again, what I’d love to see her do is to let her actors find a natural connection with each other and work on really listening hard to each other, as if it’s the first time the lines have been uttered. It’s the first time we’ve heard the lines uttered! No pre-empting lines next time! How wonderful to see so many new, fresh faces, from right across the coast, working on the Noosa stage with seasoned performers as their mentors.

The Boy in the Cardboard Box

by Rainee Skinner

Directed by Sue Clapham

There’s an open coffin – actually, it’s a cardboard box, just as Johnny wanted, with pencils and felt pens and feathers and glitter and glue laid out – on the table in the dining room and three friends arrive early to pre-funeral drinks. Awkward. Aunty Jane (Eileen Walder) offers tea but this crowd prefers vodka. And they’re going to need it. Everybody loved Johnny but nobody really knew him…until the friends compare notes.

Stephen Moore plays a wonderfully gay actor friend of Johnny’s. I was waiting for him to burst into song (“Keep it gay, keep it gay, keep it gay!”) but he didn’t. Actually, I think he may have sung a snippet of something else but it was certainly not a refrain from The Producers. As Alan (not just “one of the Alans but the ORIGINAL Alan!”), his language is poetic and appropriately OTT, considering his decadent, self-indulgent Sydney life. He joins Kate (Tania Nash), who was a friend of Johnny’s from the bank and Angela (Gail Evans), who is another actor friend.  Nash gives us some terrific vocal work and Evans has wonderful stage presence so between them we get a great performance.

I know the playwright was worried that this production would turn out to be a big old “word fest” and without more confident actors her fears may have been proved right. It IS a wordy play that might work better if the director and cast were allowed to take the red pen to it (as it happens, this is not allowed but should be a consideration in continuing discussions about the development of the festival. See below INTERVAL – SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT) and it is very static in its direction, however; I’m sure the pace will pick up and lines will be spot on now that the initial opening night jitters have been dealt with.

Skinner’s is the least tightly constructed of the three scripts and the best example of why this festival needs a shake-up. Yes! It’s time!

 

INTERVAL OR SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

 

One night last year, some of us discussed the pros and cons of a couple of changes to the festival (until the wee small hours of the morning) and now we need to see some sort of formal process facilitated. By that I mean we need to tell somebody else so that the ideas can be discussed at a bigger table. So I’m telling you. And you can all talk about it and email the committee and bring about change. Mostly because we’re too busy this year to have the same discussion for so long without doing something about it but also because everyone’s a winner when the playwright, during the rehearsal process, is allowed to make changes to the text.

WOAH!

I know. It’s pretty radical. But imagine if we could assess the playwriting first (keep those results secret) and then allow the director and the actors – with or without the playwright present in the rehearsal room (works for some but not for others. There’s always Skype for a notes session) – and work on the play as a living, breathing, working script in preparation for a paying audience. That way, without impeding the assessment of the writing, the play could be improved as a production. I would suggest that the same reading panel and the same adjudicator see the play on its feet, exactly as it’s written, without changing a thing first. Then, having assessed each play on its merits as a written piece that can be got up on its feet, they hand over to the director, who is then given free reign with the play, just like any director who has acquired the rights to perform any play. If we assume that scenario, the playwright might suggest in the script that a certain piece of music be used. If, according to the director, there is a more suitable piece of music available, why not let them use it? David Williamson stipulated specific pieces of music in Travelling North and in the Noosa Arts Production earlier this year, the director, in consultation with the sound designer, agreed that for his interpretation of the production, the suggested pieces were the best they could use. He could very well have used something entirely different.

I’m not saying the audience even knows or cares how much a play has been re-interpreted. Unless it’s well known – and let’s face it, these are not; it’s the first time we’ve seen any of them – a director can do whatever he or she sees fit to tell the playwright’s story.

What does this mean for the longest-running playwriting competition on the Sunshine Coast? It means that

For The Playwright

  • The playwright will write their play, submit it and have it read and assessed on its merits as a written text
  • The playwright will see their play performed as it is (no changes) in the first instance
  • The playwright will have the option to join the director and the actors in the rehearsal room to continue refining their text, re-writing dialogue as they see fit, if it will help to clarify the story for an audience who has never read or seen the play before
  • The playwright will experience seeing their play pre and post rewrites, which (tell me, writers, if I’m wrong), seems a very valuable part of the writing process

For The Director

  • The director will read the 3 finalists’ scripts and be allocated a play to work on.
  • The director will cast the play and have it “on its feet” for a well-rehearsed reading, which the reading panel and the adjudicator see and assess. (Actors, that means you would really nearly know your lines straight away!)
  • The director will work on the play with the actors and the playwright, if there is a need for change. If there are no changes made, happy days.

For The Actors

  • The actors get to work with the director and the playwright on producing the best possible piece of live theatre for a paying audience
  • The actors get to experience the rehearsal process as it should be: a fun, exciting, challenging time to keep them on their toes and turn out their best possible work

For the Audience (no change except to attend a more entertaining event)

  • The audience will enjoy the three finalists’ plays
  • The audience will vote on their favourite production

What else does it mean?

It means we need more (good) directors.

Here’s the Thing…

by Debra Chalmers

Directed by Jane Rivers

It will be no surprise to see this play win the Nancy Cato Audience Choice Award. It’s fast, funny and it’s the final play of the night. Two sisters wake up after a big night out in Brisbane and find a young man asleep on their lounge. They don’t know how he got there and they can’t wake him so they hide him…before Mum arrives! Mayhem follows and the story goes in a completely different direction to what you might be expecting, certainly the opposite of what I was expecting. I was expecting to hear and perhaps see re-enacted, the possible scenarios from the night before and perhaps never know the truth. Clearly, there’s potential for another play because that’s not at all what we have here. The ending wraps up the loose ends very neatly and, although we’re supposed to wonder about exactly what it was that Caroline (Jodie Bushby) got up to, there is no misinterpreting Bushby’s beautifully candid delivery of the final line. Thank goodness we have her naturalism and good sense on stage. She balances nicely, the hysterics of her sister, Amanda (Jenni McCaul). Nicole (Ebony Hamacek) is the slightly bemused but mostly horrified daughter of Amanda and Constance (Sue Sewell) the – eventually – drunk mother of Amanda and Caroline.

Director, Jane Rivers, has allowed for plenty of fun physical theatre and a good deal of over-acting from the majority of players, particularly in terms of response time and facial expressions, making this, for me, the six year old and a large number of audience members on opening night, the most entertaining play of the evening.

If you’ve never ventured out to see the National One-Act Playwriting Competition finalists at Noosa Arts Theatre or you haven’t yet enjoyed the newly renovated foyer and amenities, this is a great opportunity to do so. There are no really heavy overtones, no deep and meaningful moralistic tales or lessons, just good, clean fun. Sometimes that’s all we need to see.

Of course, if you’re after something a little darker after the one-acts, be sure to book your tickets to see Erotique, also part of the Noosa Longweekend program and showing over 3 nights only, on June 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Strictly adults only, Erotique will get you thinking…and talking…and feeling all sorts of things about sex and our attitudes towards it. Check out Profile mag’s interview with Director, Sam Coward.

And if you’re looking for something fun to throw the kids into, register for my acting workshops on June 16th and 17th (the first one on Saturday is free)! On Sunday, I’ll be working with older kids on audition skills and making first impressions.

Download the Noosa Longweekend program and book online http://noosalongweekend.com

Hugh O’Brien, Rainee Skinner & Debra Chalmers

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1 Response to “2012 One-Act Play Festival”


  1. June 9, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Great write up Xanthe, and some interesting suggestions.
    I do however have to correct you on one point. The playwrights are in fact given the opportunity to take to the script with a red pen. When I took over as Convenor of the Competition several years back, I did in fact implement several changes, after consulting David Williamson. I actually met quite a bit of resistance at first, but people eventually accepted the changes. I was keen to push them through, because I felt it could only stand to improve the integrity of the Competition.

    The 3 finalist playwrights are invited to attend a public playreading and are then given an opportunity to tweak their scripts. They can cut, as much as they want. The judging has already taken place, so it doesn’t effect the result. They are also now encouraged to (rather than banned from) ‘workshop’ the scripts prior to entry (to a point). There are some restrictions, but that is mainly to stop people from performing a script somewhere, and then refining it, and entering it as a ‘new’ script under a different name.

    I do agree that we could refine the process even further, with more workshopping of scripts taking place. It is difficult when we don’t have any funding the pay the playwrights to come from whereever they live, to Noosa for this proceess, and we are also restricted to some degree with time constraints. We just don’t have much available time in our Calendar for all of this stuff, but I am always open to ideas.

    Next time there is a ’round table’ discussion about this, I would love to be involved.
    Synda


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