Theatre | Dead Centre, Sea Wall | Ken Longworth

ROCKY COAST: Carl Young is in Sea Wall, which will be staged by Stooged Theatre with another short play, Dead Centre, in January.
ROCKY COAST: Carl Young is in Sea Wall, which will be staged by Stooged Theatre with another short play, Dead Centre, in January.

WHEN the double bill of short plays, Dead Centre and Sea Wall, premiered in Melbourne in 2015, the staging company, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, was nervous about how reviewers and audiences would react.

Each of the plays has just one actor on stage for 35 minutes and the performers – one a woman, the other a man – have to keep watchers gripped.

However, the company’s initiative was rewarded, when the show, which toured to Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney after its Melbourne run, won raves from all who saw it.

Andrew McInnes, a Newcastle-raised actor and director who is now based in Sydney, saw the double bill there and recommended it to Newcastle company Stooged Theatre, which focuses on strong plays that might not otherwise be seen in the Hunter.

Stooged is staging Dead Centre and Sea Wall at Newcastle West’s Catapult Dance Studios from January 13 to 21, with Claire See in Dead Centre and Carl Young in Sea Wall, and Andrew McInnes directing.

Claire See, who went through Merewether High School with Andrew McInnes, is now a London-based actress who has been on stage in venues including Shakespeare’s Globe and has appeared in BBC television series and films made in Britain.

When she heard that Stooged was staging the double bill, she recorded an audition and forwarded it to the company. She usually returns to Newcastle to spend Christmas with her family, but put the visit off until late December-early January so she could appear in Dead Centre.

The double bill had an interesting origin. Red Stitch was keen to stage Sea Wall, written by English playwright Simon Stephens in 2008, and asked Australian playwright Tom Holloway if he would write a similar length work that would include references to people and situations mentioned in that play. Holloway, who was friends with Stephens, won his approval.

The woman in Holloway’s Dead Centre, Helen, has migrated to Australia to escape a troubled background in England. But when she takes a trip to Uluru, in Australia’s Red Centre, people and issues she has tried to forget return to her mind.

Alex, the man in Sea Wall, had a long and initially enjoyable relationship with Helen, but problems they encountered in coastal areas, especially when visiting a relative in France, created difficulties. 

The double bill, staged at Catapult’s space at 880 Hunter Street, can be seen on Saturdays, January 13 and 20, at 7.30pm, on Sundays, January 14 and 21, at 5pm, and on Friday, January 19, at 7.30pm.

Tickets: $25. Bookings: trybooking.com/3319917.