Posts Tagged ‘One Night in Emerald City


summer of the seventeenth doll opens thursday!

How excitement! This revival, the national touring production of Ray Lawler’s classic 1950’s play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, directed by Neil Armfield and starring Robyn Nevin, with whom I once shared the stage in Noosa, opens at QPAC in Brisbane on Thursday.

QTC’s season opener is one of Australia’s most iconic, pivotal plays; a pillar of Australian theatre and a story which has been lauded for 50 years. “Times have changed but the characters still come through,” says 90 year old playwright, Ray Lawler.

The Doll premiered in 1955, at the Union Theatre in Melbourne (where Lawler was Manager at the time) and following a successful Sydney season, toured the West End and Broadway, where it ran for 5 weeks after Lawler refused to change any of the “Australianisms”, which would have made the play more accessible in the American market. Little wonder that Lawler has never watched the British-Australian 1959 film version, re-titled Season of Passion for its American release.

Queensland Theatre Company last staged the Doll at the SGIO Theatre in August 1974. Directed by Joe MacColum, the cast included Diane Berryman  as Bubba, Kate Wilson as Pearl, Suzanne Roylance as Olive, Hazel Howson as Emma, Douglas Hedge as Barney, Frank Gallacher as Roo and Terry Brady as Johnnie Dowd.

Set in Australia in the 1950s, the Doll tells the story of cane-cutters Barney and Roo, who return from Queensland to the Carlton house they share with Nancy and Olive every year, for their annual five-months of fun. It’s been this way for 17 years. This summer though, it’s different.  Barney’s 17-year seasonal girlfriend Nancy has gone and gotten married; so Olive ropes in the uptight Pearl as company for him; while she and Roo, who is flat broke, realise life has caught up with them, and their relationship. Is this really the end?

Starring a superb cast led by Australia’s leading lady of the stage Robyn Nevin, the Doll has been revived; its messages just as poignant as they were when the play was first performed in Melbourne in 1955, forever changing the landscape of Australian Theatre like no other play before, or since. “It’s still about human need, human failings, human flaws, human aspirations,” says Nevin, a member of MTC’s Season 2012 Programming Team.

‘This production of the Doll fell beautifully into our laps. It was already programmed as Neil Armfield’s final production for Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney and I had been cast. But it was only when both Ray Lawler and Neil Armfield made it clear that they would love MTC to take it on that we realised it would be such a perfect fit,” said Nevin.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll stars Steve Le Marquand (Buried Child, Underbelly Razor, Beneath Hill 60) as Roo; the enigmatic Robyn Nevin as Emma Leach; Alison Whyte (Frontline, Satisfaction, City Homicide, Logie, Helpmann and GreenRoom award winner) as Olive Leach; Eloise Winestock (As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet) as Bubba Ryan; Helen Thompson (Getting’ Square, Green Room award winner) as Pearl Cunningham; Travis McMahon (Cloudstreet, Don’s Party, Last Man Standing) as Barney Ibbot, and James Hoare (Noises Off, Twelfth Night) as Johnnie Dowd.

 “Ray Lawler wrote a play against marriage, says Neil Armfield. “Ray held up this amazing mirror and, as great theatre does, it shows us who we are.”

Kewpie Doll from The Performing Arts Collection, Melbourne


        Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, by Ray Lawler

When:                     22 February to March 11

Where:                    Playhouse QPAC

Director:                 Neil Armfield

 Cast:                       Steve Le Marquand, Robyn Nevin, Alison Whyte, Helen Thomson, Travis McMahon, Eloise Winestock, and James Hoare

Set Designer:         Ralph Myers

Costumes:              Dale Ferguson

Lighting:                Damien Cooper

Composer:              Alan John

Sound:                     Paul Charlier

Asst Director:        Susanna Dowling

Under 30 $33; Previews $42-$56; Mid-Week $56-$75; Weekend $60-$79

Tel 1800 355 528 or

About Performing Arts Collection

The Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Collection is Australia’s premier collection relating to the history of circus, dance, music, theatre and opera, and is home to over 450,000 items including costumes, archives, designs and photographs.

Olive. Design by Anne Fraser for MTC's 1977 production, on which Armfield's revival is based.


That Just Happened


One Night In Emerald City

The Corrilee Foundation

And Noosa Longweekend 

Friday November 26 2010




This time last week, I was swanning around with Robyn Nevin, Paula Duncan, David Field, Ita Buttrose, Bob Ansett, Mikey Robins, Lucy Bell, Ian Roberts, Felix Williamson, Jim Berardo, Daniel MacPherson and Sammy Power. Now, I think I mentioned Shane Bourne in my last post about this and that was me referring to inaccurate, outta date info. Shane was not involved in this version of the show. Sorry to mislead you.


In order to avoid further confusion, by “swanning around” I mean I turned up to The J in Noosa, at 10:45am on Friday, with Aroma’s soy chai latte in hand (yes, I know there is now soy rotting inside of me; shut up), met everybody, including the mastermind behind the whole huge event, the inimitable Ms Tanya Lee of The Corrilee Foundation, took my place on stage next to Dan MacPherson, and we read through the play twice (we stopped for lunch in between readings). And THAT was rehearsal. And THAT was the day. Oh, and I took off to our lovely room at Netanya for a hot tub, then to Rococco’s for Veuve and oysters, before heading back to the theatre for hair and make up.




David Field played two roles during the day – actor and director – and he was awesome in both. In fact, if I didn’t continue to feel the pull to keep getting up on stage, I would happily sit in a studio or in the theatre with stupidly talented people like David and simply absorb his energy and ideas by osmosis. In fact, I have a whole list of these directors. And actors. And authors. And teachers. And leaders. You know, those people in whose presence you would just like to be. Obviously, there is a fine line between being invisible and um, stalking…


As a director, David tends to stand back and let the action unfold. If he (barely) visibly cringes, you know you’re about to be politely interrupted and given a direction like, “Just tone all of that down a bit. Let’s go again and stay right with the script. It’s all there. It’s all in there”, which is easy to say when you have a David Williamson script in hand. It IS all in there and, particularly within a play reading context, the words must win in the end. As a director and as an actor, David Field GETS IT. I love the way he holds the stage, having established his presence on stage and continues to hold your attention – while you hold your breath – waiting for his next line. He doesn’t pull any stunts or lay on anything too thick. He just IS who he has to be to relay the story to the audience (he knows they’re captivated).




I wonder if, even with all of the talk about it in the media being “just” a play reading (and we tried not to say “just”), people knew what to expect…the actors sitting on stage, books in hand. It doesn’t happen too often on the Sunshine Coast. Except at rehearsals for full scale productions. And they’re usually closed rehearsals. Did anybody expect to see sets and costumes? I mean, a staged play reading to anybody involved in the theatre indicates that we would actually be moving it a bit. Actually, Felix and I got to move it a lot; the low solid timber table was ideal for our “wrestling” as his uncle, Chris, phrased it the other day on FM 101.3; “You and Felix got to wrestle quite a bit, didn’t you? Felix is my nephew, you know”. I KNOW. I think I told him, live on air, that Felix can wrestle me anytime he likes. I know. It just came out. We were live, kids; what could I do?!


It was pure joy to watch Robyn Nevin at work (I worked with Robyn Nevin!) I absolutely adore her vocal work especially. It’s that trained voice, isn’t it? Duh. Lovely Lucy Bell has it too (I worked with Lucy Bell!) Cate Blanchett has it too (note to self: work with Cate one day). My mum does not have it, however; Robyn Nevin reminds me of her. Seriously. She looks like my mum. Or, my mum looks like Robyn Nevin. We’ve all said it for years. And it’s true. When I have time to find the pics, I will post portraits of both theatre loving ladies and you shall see for yourselves.


Ian Roberts was totes OTT (it totes worked for him), playing a serial killer who’d never been caught, killing off only those who deserved it, the scum of the earth (bankers, financial advisers…) whilst out on their morning jog, taking down one spear-tackle victim at time. Ita Buttrose, one of the most elegant old-world ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, was a fabulous Zara, delivering the wordiest, funniest monologue in the piece. Paula Duncan was superb, during her brief appearance as the very Christian cleaning lady who came across not just mine and Felix’s characters in a compromising position but also, Lucy’s and Mikey Robbins’ characters in a similarly compromising position. This of course resulted in her securing not one but two holidays in Bora Bora, which the audience LOVED. There are no small parts, kids!


I think I mentioned Dan MacPherson (I worked with Dan MacPherson!) He played the past-it skateboard champ and had his own hilarious little moments, recanting the completely fabricated tales of his success. Dan is one of those soapie stars who truly used the genre (the soap and all those suds) as a solid foundation to take him into the next genre (the grit and guts of crime drama). Dan is no ordinary TV actor. In fact, David Field and Daniel MacPherson have given me a whole new outlook on “TV actors” (being based on the Sunshine Coast, I don’t know many of them, unless I went to uni with them, which I find is often the case because they are all super talented and super gorgeous and their potential for TV was spotted long before they graduated!) so I’ve never doubted their talent as actors, I just didn’t realise they were so passionate about theatrical projects and would, perhaps, like to do more of them.




The evening was a success. As I hadn’t felt nervous since about 10:44 the same morning, I did only some very minimal jumping around in the wings (and if you’ve seen me in the wings before a show, I hope a) you were not in the audience at the time because it would be appallingly unprofessional of me to be seen at that juncture and b) that you realise I don’t actually JUMP around. It’s more like…little ballet fairy warm-up runs on the spot and sometimes those shivery running legs, you know, like in Flashdance. I don’t do jumping around).


I will tell you the secret to what I hope was a great performance, worthy of being included amongst such esteemed company (as I say, I hope it was, otherwise YOU’RE ALL LIARS), which came from David Field. And later, from Ian Mackellar too, the General Manager of The Noosa Longweekend and the instigator of this project happening in Noosa. And it was for some reason, shocking coming from Ian and normal coming from David! They both said something like, “Tonight, vamp it up…slut it up. GO FOR IT.”  SLUT IT UP. That’s right. It’s my new favourite phrase and has, I believe, the potential to be used in many Christmas season contexts coming up. Try it. Try it at the staff Christmas function by shouting to a colleague on the dance floor after six too many drinks after a bad buffet dinner, “That’s it, love; SLUT IT UP!” It will certainly help to make an impression.


The official post-show party was pretty fun too, these things usually are; we settled on the lounge with Dan’s super-cool chic, Nat, and let the fans and friends (and the wait staff, who were excellent, with their trays of teeny-tiny, love- heart-shaped, mushroom-filled delicacies provided by Splash) come to us.  The unofficial post-post-show party was even more fun but you know, what happens at the post-post-show party stays at the post-post-show party.


Perhaps somebody who was there  and enjoyed the show, will write the unbiased, unassociated post next! I’d like to see that! And I’d like to see photos! I didn’t want to be that girl who stopped to have her picture taken with everybody…that role was clearly reserved for Sammy Power! Love your work, Sammy!


Do check out The Corrilee Foundation. The next One Night in Emerald City event is to be in Melbourne next year, at The Malthouse (yes, they know I’m available!) but they do a heap of other work right through the year (more on the project that David Field and Miranda Kerr are involved in coming soon). I hope I will have the privilege and the pleasure of working with all of these wonderful people again sometime, in some capacity. And in the meantime, life goes on.


As I tweeted the following day, “One day you’re on stage with the likes of Robyn Nevin and the next you’re back in the studio coaching kids!”

As @Dramagirl promptly replied, as she does, “That’s showbiz!”




One Night In Emerald City

One more sleep until I spend One Night in Emerald City, on stage, with some pretty impressive Aussie talent.

Yes. I know. I should be sleeping. But I’m a bit excited…well, excited and scared.

I will be sharing the stage with Robyn Nevin, Paula Duncan, David Field, Ita Buttrose, Bob Ansett, Mikey Robins, Lucy Bell, Ian Roberts, Felix Williamson, Jim Berardo and Daniel MacPherson. Our comperes will be Shane Bourne and local Zinc FM breakfast show host, Sammy Power.

Apparently, according to my sources, who have all been at The J in Noosa already this evening, to support the premiere of the locally produced short film Cyber Sin, everybody is in fine spirits! I was sorry not to have been able to make this special event too, but our QAVA students keep turning up to classes!

Look, I would like to tell you that I have my lines down. I would like to tell you that, just like Ken Baumann (and so many others, though his is the most recent impressive interview with an actor), I read the script a couple of times and just HAD IT. In fact, I would like to tell you that I know exactly what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, whether my hair will be straightened or styled in water waves (thank you Suite Three)…but no. I got nothin’. We have come to the eleventh hour and I’m freaking out like my four year old. That’s right. Not a typo. Not just any four year old, my four year old; who graduated from daycare yesterday (are we celebrating or are we celebrating mediocrity?!) She refused to perform the well-rehearsed little concert they’d put together for the proud parents. She’d been singing Home Among the Gum Trees for several weeks. She was so ready! But she was happy with her decision. She was a beautiful audience member, in her red sari for Diwali (Nanny and Bugsy-Pa have just returned from India and her head is full of stories and her arms bright and shiny with bangles). She was so proud of her friends and she mingled with them afterwards, congratulating them, as four year olds do, over pink “champagne” and sausages in bread.

Perhaps stage fright is partly genetic. I think I hid behind my mother’s (her Nanny’s) skirts until I was four. Or in Grade Four, I don’t remember which; I’ve blocked it out. Perhaps Poppy is simply a child who knows her own mind (and heart). It has taken me years to work out that there are times I love being on stage and there are other times when I love teaching and directing. Above all, I have loved having a choice in the matter.

Clearly, I had to respect her decision (it was worded so eloquently), “Mama, I want to watch my friends today. We are the audience today.” No amount of coercion from teachers, friends or friends’ (stage) mothers could convince her to change her mind. So we enjoyed watching her friends perform.

We also had a little conversation later, about sometimes just having to do the show…


Mama: You know, sometimes, you don’t have a choice and the show must go on and that means you must go on.

Poppy: I know, Mama. Like your shows.

Mama: That’s right, like my shows; the audience turns up so we do our show.

Poppy: Okay, Mama; I will do the show the next time the audience turns up.


I hope, when the audience turns up tomorrow night I will feel ready to do the show, rather than sitting and enjoying watching it! I really would like to see it! I love a good playreading! One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen was a staged reading directed by Michael Gow, of David Williamson’s Let the Sun Shine.

After a read with the cast in the morning and a read on stage with them in the afternoon, I’m hoping I’ll feel as confident as I did walking into the audition! We shall soon see!


If you’re there, enjoy and make sure you say hi at our little soiree after the show!




One Night in Emerald City


See? There’s just no accounting for who they put on the front page anymore!


In case you missed it…







This is an exciting opportunity for me and another great theatrical event for the Sunshine Coast.


Tickets go on sale today.


Most interesting comment thus far: “Would they have given you the role if you weren’t a mum?!” I may have more to say about this another day…




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