Posts Tagged ‘peta beattie


1912 – Titanic

1912- Titanic

BYTE Master Class Actors

Buderim War Memorial Hall.

Friday 1 June 2012

Reviewed by Ayla Vashti in conversation with Xanthe Coward

Ayla Vashti is in Year 6 at Eumundi State School on the Sunshine Coast

Ayla Vashti and Poppy Coward at 1912 – Titanic

Ed’s note: Peta Beattie, with her original work, Romanov and now with this latest work, 1912 – Titanic under her belt, may not be as well known as some of the winners from our local playwriting competitions but she is undoubtedly one of our best local playwrights and I can’t wait to see more from her. This is a wonderful piece for any accomplished group of young (or old) actors to get their teeth into. I love the way Peta is able to balance the horror, terror and tragedy of life with the simple good humour of the everyday. Somewhere within all historical accounts, there are the ordinary people and how they felt at the time of the disaster that changed their lives. Peta manages to capture these thoughts and emotions and challenge ours.

In the 100th Anniversary year of the tragedy of the Titanic, Peta Beattie thought it apt to tell the stories of some of the people involved in this famous historical event, in a series of short vignettes. We meet many characters over the first act of this new work and not all of them nice to know but all of them about to board the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southhampton in the UK to New York City in the USA. Almost the whole first act is all about the different backgrounds of the people who would risk their lives by boarding the ship.

The first person we saw was drunk and had killed his wife. His name was William Mintram. I think the actor chosen for this character was a good choice because he acted the part with reality and we believed him. He looked like he meant it. We saw him again at the end, with his boy and the ghost of his wife (Saskia Wass) and it was very sad. The Fortune family was also played well. The father, Mark Fortune was very life-like and he acted like I would have thought him to be like if I had read about him before seeing him. Ethel Fortune was a very big telltale and I felt like I was there, listening to her gossip. Ethel and her two sisters were very different characters, each with their own qualities and they only got along when they had to reach a lifeboat to be saved. Their father was a stern man and very strict; qualities which the actor showed honestly and made me grateful that we are not living like those children did at that time, with such strict parents who make the girls marry and make the poor son stay and drown “a man”. Because they were so wealthy, this family could basically do whatever they wanted, just like all the first class passengers could do.

The other wealthy people included the famous Mrs Margaret (Molly) Brown, played by Brodie Shelley, whose performance we really enjoyed. She was relaxed and natural on stage. Another lighter character was the American actress, Mary Warner Marvin  (Katherine Ernst) and her husband (Riley Cope). This couple was lovely to watch and seemed to be a good match, working well together to get the comedy right. We also met a maid and her mistress (Ashleigh Holmes) and the husband of her mistress (Isaac Saunders), who was another awful male character (but he got his comeuppance in the end), another maid (this one Italian) and her mistress, the Countess de Rothes (Caroline McAllister) and a travelling companion. The women treated the Italian maid meanly and didn’t think about how she might like to spend her time on the ship. The only happy people seemed to be the poor people, most of them Irish, who were travelling on a different deck or working in the boiler room.

These Irish characters, very poor, third class passengers, were delightful, dancing and singing and joking around. One of the highlights of the show was their high-energy dance scene, which also managed to move the plot along because we saw the relationships developing as the dance went on into the night. One fellow, tall and gangly, with the largest hands and the longest fingers I’ve seen on a stage, was hilarious. At times his mate was too drunk to even walk straight but he stuck by him and I guess they drowned together at the bottom of the ship after letting the ladies go through to the deck. The taller actor provided a lot of the laughs throughout the play and Xanthe thinks he has a real Michael Crawford quality about him. Perhaps we’ll see him play P.T. Barnum next!

The interesting thing about this play is that it’s not just sad. There is a lot of humour in it because the people are the real people, based on newspaper reports and other print media of the day, their diaries, personal belongings and accounts from the people who knew them. The playwright must have done a lot of reading and research to write characters that so easily come to life. Xanthe said that she has made it easy for the actors, giving them beautifully drawn characters that we can relate to. We feel so sad to lose them because we’ve gotten to know them along the way. This is a gift to actors and the gift of a good writer.

Xanthe thinks the flow of the play was hindered by clunky scene changes and perhaps too many at that. It might be possible to pre-set some of the scenes in darkness so we are not waiting so long to see the story go on. Because it’s so unexpected to have to wait so long until disaster occurs, we need the story to go on quite quickly to get to it. Xanthe says that the tension built well all the same and I agree. The music, which already gave us clues about characters before the lights came up on each scene, and the way the characters start to get worried about taking the trip, help to build the tension. As my Uncle Sam said, we know what is going to happen. It’s not like the ship won’t sink in the end because it did. Because it’s true. It’s very sad to think of all those people, drowning or choosing to end their own lives before the sea took them. The actors made all the panic and terror seem real but unfortunately, we couldn’t hear a lot of what they were saying once the ship struck the iceberg because the music and sound effects were so loud. The volume of the impact made it very scary to be sitting there in the dark as people on stage screamed and ran for their lives. My little cousin, Poppy, was scared and Xanthe had to cuddle her until the awful time when everyone was just waiting for the ship to sink. The ship didn’t have enough lifeboats on board so many, many people died when they would have otherwise been saved.

Apparently, we heard the actual music that was played by the musicians as the ship sank. It was a beautiful hymn, Nearer My God to Thee, which was played very well by a violinist, Henry Jeaffreson. This made the end much sadder. It’s strange how some music sometimes has that effect.

There are some things that might have been similar to the James Cameron film, or any other film for that matter, because it’s a true story. The difference in this play is that we see more of so many more of the people. This would be a great play for schools to do because so many kids can have a role. But they must be good actors to make us believe them and be happy that they are telling the true story of the Titanic. I hope they would have the same beautiful costumes too.

The whole cast came out at the end, after the ship sank, like ghosts, to sing the hymn and we wanted them to take a bow but they didn’t, they just left. It was a strange, sad way to end the show and I would have given them all an extra round of applause if they’d stayed to take a bow. Xanthe says after such an extraordinary, emotional journey, we all needed to be reminded that it was just actors on stage and we needed to give them their applause because they earned it. Maybe the director would let them take a bow next time, or not necessarily bow but, like Xanthe says, stand and take their applause.

Ed’s note: taking two young girls to see this incredibly sad story played out before us was a bit of a gamble but they got so much out of it and the discussions we’ve had since have been very valuable (and at times, very entertaining!). This was a good reminder that we all go away with something very different from the theatre and also, that most children still do not see enough drama outside of the cinema or the living room. The BYTE Master Class Actors have done an incredible job bringing these people to life. It’s clear that Director, Robyn Ernst has allowed time and space for the actors to fully realise their characters and, working together, they deliver a pretty slick production to commemorate beautifully, those who perished with the Titanic 100 years ago.


Edythe Brooke Cooper Playwriting Competition


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


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.


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.