Our September picks for community theatre
28 Sep 2015
John Kachoyan - AustralianPlays.org Literary Manager
This month I have chosen two plays that are ‘from the vault’, in the sense that neither are new plays. They are however new to our collection and were, at the time of their respective premiere productions, great successes both critically and with audiences. The flowering of playwrighting in the 1990s was a golden time. Theatre companies are always looking for new writers and new plays, but in this era there seemed to be a much stronger appetite (and certainly a much more established infrastructure) for new text. Abe Pogos’ Strangers in the Night was first produced by Playbox Theatre, a company dedicated to Australian premieres of new writing, and Night Letters emerged from State Theatre, South Australia’s Laboratory, under the visionary leadership of Rosalba Clemente. These are both dense and poetic works with (relatively) large casts and present wonderful opportunities for actors, designers and directors.
Strangers in the Night by Melbourne-based playwright Abe Pogos is what I might (in a somewhat sloppy use of the term) describe as a ‘genre piece’. Set in New York City, it recalls the atmospherics of noir. Set on the streets of New York City with an Australian abroad as the central character, it is a taut and mysterious thriller, beautifully plotted and deliciously written. It is an edge-of-your-seat experience, designed to give the audience an excellent ride. Pogos is an insightful and meticulous playwright, and while it references genre quite specifically (one might describe it as a cross between The Talented Mr Ripley and Night Stalker) it has a flavour that is absolutely original and authentic. This is a brilliant opportunity for any company that has a thirst for great plotting, amazing characters and a moody, atmospheric thriller as part of the season.
Night Letters by Susan Rogers and Chris Drummond (adapted from the novella of the same name by Australian literary legend Robert Dessaix) was a massive labour of love. The text was developed over the course of more than two years by State Theatre, South Australia and assisted by the National Playwrights’ Conference (now Playwriting Australia). Dessaix’s book, a fictional memoir of an escape to Europe following the diagnosis of a terminal disease, is one of the cornerstones of contemporary Australian literature, and this adaptation is, while faithful in spirit to the book, a beautiful translation into theatricality. The landscape of the play (the fabulous and decaying opulence of Venice) gives the story so much volume, and the characters are rich and deeply conceived. This is an elegant and elegiac text, rich in metaphor and stunningly conceived as a theatrical work: a feast for any company looking for something haunting, moving and delicate.
Tom Healey, Literary Manager