|Rachel Howard as Rufus Torrent - Bronte Batham as Bernie in "The Torrents" - in the Mill Theatre|
Directed by Lexi Sekuless – Designed by Victoria Hopkins
Lighting designed by Stefan Wronski – Prop design by Tracy Cui
Presented by Lexi Sekuless Productions
The Mill Theatre – Dairy Road 23rd November – 3rd December 2022.
Performance on 24th November reviewed by Bill Stephens.
The birth of a new theatre in Canberra’s burgeoning performing arts scene is something to applaud. Lexi Sekuless has certainly earned whatever applause comes her way for her bravery in establishing the brand new Mill Theatre in the Dairy Road precinct, which although tiny, already possesses a cosy inviting atmosphere.
Her decision to launch her new theatre with “The Torrents”, an obscure play by a female playwright, Oriel Gray, was also applause-worthy, because this play, which was voted Best Play by the 1955 Playwright’s Advisory Board, alongside Ray Lawler’s “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”, has gained a certain notoriety for never having achieved anywhere near the success of Lawler’s play. So the opportunity to finally see a production of “The Torrents” offered a compelling attraction.
However, the decision to present this play with an all-female cast is curious, particularly given that much of the play is concerned with exploring the tensions caused by the employment of a female reporter in a newspaper where the rest of the employees are male.
|Heidi Silberman as John Manson in "The Torrents"|
Set in the second half of the 19th century, “The Torrents” takes place in a newspaper office of a country town built around gold-mining. When the gold begins to run out, a suggestion that the town considers developing agriculture as a buffer to the diminishing gold reserves is resisted by the local council, especially the local mayor, who is also the financier of the newspaper.
The editor of the newspaper, Rufus Torrent (Rachel Howard) finds himself in an awkward situation with his desire to present both sides of the hotly contested argument fairly. His situation is exacerbated by the arrival of a new reporter, J.G.Milford, who, unexpectedly, turns out to be a woman. Her presence causes tensions among his all-male workforce.
One can only wonder what the playwright might have thought of having her play promoted as an Australian screwball comedy. Also what would be gained by having it performed by an all-female cast?
Although there are a few amusing moments, based on this production, the play could hardly be described as a comedy, screwball or otherwise. Therefore, whatever its merits, they are hard to recognise when it is performed rather like a panto presented in an all-girls school with scenes separated by prettily harmonised songs with largely unintelligible lyrics.
|Kat Smalley as Ben Torrent in "The Torrents"|
The only exceptions being Jasmin Shojai, as local lass, Gwynne Thomas, who’s engaged to the editor’s son, Ben Torrent (Kat Smalley) but decked out in spectacular wearable art which suggests she’s really Lola Montez.
|Lexie Sekuless as J.G.Milford in "The Torrents".|
The other being director, Lexi Sekuless, who’s reserved the best role and the best costumes for herself, and who gives a star performance as the mysterious J.G.Milford, who finally convinces the town of the wisdom of young Ben’s breakthrough editorial, thereby earning the admiration of her fellow employees, securing her job at the newspaper, and the heart of Ben’s father, Rufus Torrent.
Images by Tim Ngo.
Images by Tim Ngo.