Music by David King
Lyrics by James Millar
Directed by Caroline Stacey
Sound Design by Seth Edwards-Ellis
Reported by Bill Stephens.
FIRST SEEN, is a new initiative of the Street Theatre which is creating quite a buzz in theatre circles. Over four consecutive Sundays, Canberra audiences have the opportunity to be first to see a new work, selected from The Street’s THE HIVE creative program for further development. Each of the works is given a week’s workshopping by professional creatives and actors prior to a public showing at the end of that week, at which members of the public are encouraged to attend and provide feedback.
The works already unveiled in this round of showings include “From a Black Sky” an operatic work about the Canberra bushfires by Sandra Frances and Helen Nourse and “Drama Queen” a musical written by Geraldine Turner, with Music by David King and Lyrics by James Millar. Two plays are yet to be shown, “Two plays” a play by Cathy Petocz and “Sampaguita” a play by Noonee Doronila.
Having missed out on seeing “From a Black Sky” because I arrived too late to be accommodated in Street Two where the showings were being staged, I made sure I arrived in good time for “Drama Queen”. Lucky I did, because again there was a capacity house in attendance.
“Drama Queen”, Geraldine Turner’s first musical, is written for four actors, two female and two male. It’s a searing examination of a dysfunctional relationship between a mother and daughter. Its challenging script wrestles with changes in time and locality, and characters who may be real or figments of imagination.
The music is written by David King, who has previously written music for several musicals including three with Nick Enright. David is Head of Music at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
The lyrics are the work of James Millar, whose previous musicals include “The Hatpin” and “Lovebites”.
At the showing, the mother was played by Geraldine Turner, the daughter by Claire Watson while PJ Williams played a character called Leo, and James Millar played several other male characters.
The composer, David King accompanied the performance from a piano placed to one side, as the four actors, sitting on chairs arranged across the playing area, read from scripts, only occasionally standing or walking. The disembodied voice of the husband/father was featured in a soundscape designed by Seth Edwards-Ellis.
Caroline Stacey, who directed both the workshops and showing, provided verbal links to the action from side stage as the performance progressed.
Because of the absence of visual prompts like scenery or stage movement, and the variance in the unmiked voices, the performance was a relatively challenging experience for the audience who had to rely on what they could glean from the script and song lyrics to follow the action as it moved between timeframes and localities.
But they listened intently, applauded the songs, and laughed at the dialogue, and when it reached its conclusion, responded with enthusiastic applause. Then at the invitation of Caroline Stacey, many took the opportunity to provide their feedback on their response to their first glimpse of what they sincerely hoped would become a new and exciting work.
There are just two more opportunities to participate in a FIRST SEEN experience at The Street. “Two Plays” by Cathy Petocz on May 6, and “Sampaguita” by Noonee Doronila on May 13th. You could just find yourself at the birth of something truly exciting.