Theatre, in some form or another, has existed almost as long as humankind itself. Theatre brings us together to share in and witness something that seems to be an expression of a human need, the need to create meaning through narrative and metaphor. There is evidence of theatre-like rituals in the oldest human societies that existed long before the Ancient Greeks laid the foundations for Western theatre, so this seems to be an activity fundamental to us. Theatre brings its audience to witness, share and empathize with the struggles and challenges faced by people unfamiliar to us. Audiences get a glimpse into the lives of people and cultures in different parts of our own country or in other countries. Theatre brings us to imagine what other people’s lives are like.
Sometimes, theatre may be confronting or entertaining; sometimes it is both. It generates conversation after the show about people, events or issues which is why, not surprisingly, in repressive societies, theatre is sometimes feared to the point of being banned.
At Westminster School, we have a long tradition of presenting thought-provoking, entertaining theatre, something Old Scholar Drama students often reflect on in conversations with me. Four Pay Days…A play about homelessness continued this tradition. A three-act play of three and a half hours duration, Four Pay Days…presented the cast and crew with numerous challenges, not the least being its theme and duration! However, the talented principle cast of Year 12 SACE Stage 2 Drama students, capably supported by Year 11 SACE Stage 1 Drama students in other key roles, and Year 10 Drama students in yet more, presented an engaging, memorable performance which left its audiences deeply moved. Playing characters ranging from women rendered homeless by domestic violence, men suffering from mental illness and young people struggling to cope with their gender identity, the cast developed a strong ensemble during the six weeks of rehearsal. The students’ learning across a range of techniques including those of Stanislavski, Laban and Ann Bogart came to the fore during this process. The impression left by this performance is best summed up by an excerpt of an email received from Paul Edginton, CEO of SYC a not-for-profit organisation committed to providing services that foster wellbeing, independence and opportunity for all Australians:
I was so impressed with the production and the quality of the interpretation of characters achieved by each of the performers.
It is the easy road to cast homelessness as something that happens to people who somehow choose or deserve it through some form or other.
Whilst conveying the often felt hopelessness of the government’s responses (even empathy or understanding) brilliantly in the Senate scenes, the audience was not left with a sense of despair - but rather one that sought to understand rather than judge.
[The show] conveyed that the answers are complex and multi-faceted and not as simple as providing a box called a house.
[The play] conveyed brilliantly the lost sense of “home” - the loss of trust, family, comfort and safety…[as well as]…the misunderstandings of behaviour that appears aggressive but is often an expression of grief and pain that has gone unresolved.
It was a rich and wonderful performance.
The cast and crew of Four Pay Days…should be extremely proud of their achievement.
As I write, a robust and very good-natured audition process to cast the Year 8 to 10 Junior Play, Alice - A contemporary journey, is reaching its conclusion.
Loosely based on Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, this play follows its protagonist, Alice, on a rollercoaster journey toward becoming a young adult. As ‘whacky’ as the original tales by Carrol, this show is attracting great talent from the younger students. Year 10s are particularly looking forward to being senior cast members! As has become another Westminster Drama tradition, Year 11 Drama students form the Production Team to fulfil the requirements of the Creative Synthesis SACE Stage 1 Drama task, their final assessment for 2020. Students will undertake roles in Set Design, Costume Design, Production Management, and Assistant Director, to name a few. Old Scholars and Drama Assistants, Amy Bower (’15) and Dana Cropley (’15), along with Lia Devetzidis (’19), Louis Tonkin (’19), and no doubt others, will also assist with the cast of over forty students. The Rehearsal Retreat which will be held in early November, will be a catalyst for what is sure to be a dynamic, entertaining production and a great way to end this topsy turvy year! Alice - A contemporary journey will be held from Wednesday 25 to Friday 27 November.
Despite the year that has been, Drama remains as strong a student culture within the school as it has ever been!
The Drama students and I look forward to continuing to present theatre of the highest standard.
Head of Drama