Friday, 13 May 2016

The Gothics Trilogy Launch - Nexus Theatre, Murdoch Theatre Company, From The Hip Productions & Second Chance Theatre (11 May 2016)

Dracula. The Mummy. Frankenstein’s Monster.

All are iconic characters with a rich history in literature, movies, and the performing arts. They have scared and fascinated generations as far back as the novels of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and, in Dracula’s case, myth and legend long before that. Now they are familiar figures in Hollywood movies and on the small screen.

Each will feature in separate plays to be performed in a three week window in July. Two will utilise an originally written script, The Mummy Rises by Tim Brain and Frankenstein by Scott McArdle (adapted from the Shelley novel), while Dracula’s text is nearly a century old. Each will be produced by a separate theatre company based at or originating from Murdoch University – Murdoch Theatre Company, From The Hip Productions, and Second Chance Theatre.

Murdoch is a key incubator of theatrical talent in Perth, notable for having multiple theatre companies operating on campus. Over the last couple of years I’ve attended predominantly newly written work as students hone their skills across a range of disciplines from playwriting to performance and all technical aspects.

When the key creatives – John King, Tim Brain, and Scott McArdle - decided to tackle such an ambitious undertaking as the Gothics Trilogy they had the combined resources, talent and goodwill of three companies to call on under the umbrella of the Nexus Theatre. Given the task at hand, this was expanded to include alumni and staff. It’s an impressive collaboration that includes some 30 performers and 40 crew members of which 50 are alumni and current students. 

The launch on Wednesday afternoon introduced the creative teams, showcased costumes and props, and featured some of the actors from each production as well as a rough cut trailer and behind the scenes documentary footage. There was a Q&A after the formal presentation before we mingled with actors and crew and checked out various design and costume elements on display.

A few things quickly became apparent.

The passion of not only the key creatives but everyone involved from cast members (who were in costume and, in one instance, special effects makeup) to the design team. For many there is a personal connection either to the original texts or inspiration from particular iterations of these characters especially in film.

The idea was born out of the notion of bringing horror back to the stage and genuinely trying to unsettle and scare an audience. Some of the props certainly had an air of authenticity that will be interesting to see come to life on stage.

A respect for the literary origins and what has come before. This has all the hallmarks of being meticulously researched with great care and attention given to all aspects. It is an ambitious and audacious project to mount three large productions in quick succession but everyone is going into it with eyes wide open.

While these are essentially horror stories there was a lot of talk about the human aspects and accessibility of the scripts with credible human interactions. Gothic stories also have elements of romance and in The Mummy Rises’ case we’re told to expect a bad ass feminist heroine!

The scale of the effort required. For example, some 70 costumes have to be sourced and/or made and from the garb the actors were wearing they have a discernible Victorian era flavour.

Finally, not to be lost in all of this, there was a real sense of fun as well. These are huge, larger than life characters and while there will be dark elements there was an air of relish at trying to provide scares and thrills.

The Nexus Theatre is a good sized venue for this. Not too big to lose a sense of intimacy that will allow for the creation of a creepy atmosphere.

It was a well thought out launch that whet the appetite for some theatrical mayhem come July. Tickets went on sale Friday the 13th (of course). There are even package deals that will save you 30% if you want to see all three plays.

Details for each production are in the links below:

Dracula, 7-9 July, Directed by John King from a script by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderstone.

The Mummy Rises, 14-16 July, Written and directed by Tim Brain.

Frankenstein, 21-23 July, Written and directed by Scott McArdle.

I for one am a big fan of the Vampire myth and have been increasingly dismayed watching them become fashion accessories for angst driven teenagers in movies and television. I’m looking forward to a little bite being put back into my horror. These three plays look like they might just do the trick!  

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