‘Old Mill Theatre’s short play season’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 8, 2016

‘Old Mill Theatre’s short play season’ can be seen at the heritage-listed, Old Mill Theatre at the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).

This very diverse 80-minute selection has ‘curtain-up’ at 8.00 pm nightly until Saturday 10th September.

For all of the plays, the stage has black drapes on all sides and various tables and chairs.

The quality lighting and sound design were by John Spurling and operated by Evan Skinner.

 

‘Widow’s Peak’ was written and directed by WA’s Noel O’Neill.

      It is 1917 in a small, sparsely furnished room in Eire. Two middle-aged women, Peggy (Denice Byrne) and Siobhán (Mairead Dempsey) are dressed in their widow’s weeds discussing the loss, some months earlier in The Rising, of their husbands at the hands of the Black and Tans.

     As they share a drink, young Moira (Roisin Nash) who is also a widow, calls around. They notice she has a ‘bump’, and her husband has been dead for almost a year – could it be a miracle? On the other hand, has Moira been unfaithful to her husband’s memory? The older women have plenty to say.

This is a beautiful tale, touching, humorous with a powerful and angry message in the storyline. Noel has a wonderful ability to write dialogue that flows naturally, and with which everyone can connect. The three women are typical of those in a small community, and are portrayed perfectly and with genuine emotional depth by the cast. A fresh topic, most enjoyable.

 

‘Moby Dick’ is a 25-minute farce, in the unruly style known as ‘coarse acting’; which is a skit with things going wrong in theatre. This madcap adaption of the 685-page novel by Herman Melville was by Mike Green. Directed by Sarah Christiner.

        A thumbs-up signal from the wings to the bio box sets the amateur approach (as deliberately requested in the script) of this talentless, but self-admiring troupe to community theatre.

       The lights come up, and Ishmael (David Heder) makes a false entrance and exits quickly. He re-enters and does a short monologue, mispronouncing numerous words. He wanders into a local pub searching for crew, where he sees the landlady (Noah Humich) and a serving wench (Eileen Leake) taking jugs of beer to a rabble in the corner. Starbuck (Michael Dornan), Elijah (Phil Barnett) and friends are the worse for wear and volunteer for his crew.

       A scarred seaman (Sarah Christiner) says he knows a talented harpooner, the highly tattooed Queegueg (Josh Harris). As a carpenter (Kit Leake) joins the crew, the pub doors fly open and an old salt, Captain Ahab (Chris Thomas) staggers in on his peg leg. He wants to join the gang and wreak revenge upon the white whale, known as Moby Dick who ate his limb!

There follows a series of quick-fire scenes, all of them a shambles. Props fail, the actors are under rehearsed, and the play staggers from bad to worse.

Director Sarah Christiner has grasped the fact that this type of sloppy presentation actually requires hard work, slick staging, with the actors retaining unflinching, poker faces. This shambolic style of presentation is similar to that in the ‘Farndale Avenue Housing Estate’ series of plays. I found Farndale to be annoying as they are so close to the truth, whereas with Moby Dick, because the whole genre is slapstick, the pandemonium works so much better.

There were plenty of belly laughs, fun props and the genre well presented. However, I think the audience could be split 50/50, with some absolutely detesting the style.

 

‘Under The Rainbow’ was the evening’s second play written and directed by Noel O’Neill.

      The scene is several years after Dorothy’s magical trip to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

      Still dressed in scarlet shoes and her pale blue, gingham check dress, Dorothy (Valerie Dragojevic) goes to a rundown bar, known as ‘Under the Rainbow’. Despite the colourful rainbow design and the twinkling lights on the bar front, the barman known, as Wiz (Noel O’Neill) is less than welcoming.

    Cackling in the corner is Witchy (Lindsay Cliff, alternating with Siobhán Robertson-Skinner), an enchantress who is determined to ruin Dorothy’s night. Seated at a table, with party hats on their heads, are three old friends, soft-hearted Leo (Yad Sand), callous Rusty (Cameron Leese) and the lovable, but brainless, Mr Crow (Andrew Hobbs). Sadly, for Dorothy, as the evening goes on, the original warmth of the groups seems missing.

Many of us will have been to school reunions, and for some it is fun and a great success, for others it can be a regrettable embarrassment. Likewise, this dark comedy is really quite poignant, giving us an ingenious and novel look at a possible sequel of the world famous tale.

The cast were delightful, with each member totally embracing their characters.

The array of plays ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, so you are guaranteed to enjoy yourself.