NEWCASTLE Theatre Company's staging last year of one of Australia's most acclaimed plays, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, was such a hit with audiences that its management team had no hesitation in putting one of its two prequels, Kid Stakes, in this year's program.
Cheryl Sovechles, who directed Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, is again putting together the show, which reveals how central characters inthe Doll met and got together for a few weeks each year. While it is a prequel, playwright Ray Lawler made the story one that people unfamiliar with the Doll could see and enjoy.
Kid Stakes is being staged by Newcastle Theatre Company at the NTC Theatre in DeVitre Street, Lambton, from April 26 to May 11. And Cheryl Sovechles has fingers crossed that this will likewise be a popular show so that she can present the third play in the trilogy, Other Times, in 2020. Interestingly, while playwright Ray Lawler put Kid Stakes together in 1973-74, he has just made some changes to its text.
Lawler, now aged 98, rang Sovechles after NTC booked the play and told her the production would be the premiere of the revised edition. She points to the changes not being major, with words and phrases that might be puzzling to contemporary audiences having been replaced, and some props altered, with an injured Queensland cane-cutter who is holidaying in Melbourne using a walking stick rather than crutches.
The Doll, which had a contemporary setting, was written in 1953-54, and was the first Australian play to become a global hit after a London production won rave reviews and a sell-out season.
Lawler lived and worked overseas for 20 years following its London success and was persuaded by a Melbourne theatre company to write the two prequels when he returned home.
Kid Stakes is set in and around the double-storey home in the Melbourne inner-suburb Carlton of Emma Leech (played by Jan Hunt), who has been long-separated from her husband.
Emma has made it a boarding house to help pay her bills, given that the year, 1937, is still experiencing the decade's financial depression. Her daughter, Olive (Lissy Shand), who is in her early 20s, still lives at home, with a friend, Nancy (Maddie Richards) who, like her, works in a millinery store, being a paying resident.
And, as the story starts, another employee at the millinery, Dickie (Ben Martin), is waiting to take Olive out. But the arrival of a taxi, with two sun-tanned Queensland canecutters, Roo (Jarrod Sansom) and Barney (Zac Smith), who have come to Melbourne for a two-month cutting-time break, booked in as boarders, leads to very different changes in the lives of the two young women and the cane-cutters.
The play is set 17 years before the story of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and the second prequel, Other Times, in late 1945, with the two canecutters returning to Melbourne as soldiers while on leave from the army just before the end of World War II. And, interestingly, the fun-loving Nancy has left the apartments and Melbourne before Roo and Barney arrive on their break at the end of 1954 in the Doll.
Jan Hunt sees her Kid Stakes character, Emma, as very protective of Olive and determined not to get a bad reputation for her boarding house. Olive, in Lissy Shand's eyes, is still a childlike dreamer at the play's beginning, but breaks away to be herself. Maddie Richards views Nancy as having had a more sheltered upbringing than Olive, but revealing herself to be more down-to-earth.
Jarrod Sansom notes Roo as being a fair and honest guy, who comes to the defence of Olive and Nancy when Emma criticises them. Zac Smith points to Barney as being street smart, but not as knowledgeable as Roo in dealing with people.
The play is set 17 years before the story of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.
Kid Stakes has an 8pm preview on Friday, April 26, officially opening on Saturday, April 27, at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday, April 28. The show then plays Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, until May 11, plus a 2pm matinee on Saturday, May 4. Tickets: $30 to $35. Bookings: 4952 4958; newcastletheatrecompany.com.au
SCOTTISH comedian Danny Bhoy has been one of the most popular overseas laugh makers to visit Australia, with his recent shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival marking the start of his 10th trek around this country.
The first, in 2003, also began at the Melbourne event. Indeed, Bhoy is on record as noting that many people in Britain see him as having moved to Australia because he spends so much time here.
The latest show, Danny Bhoy - Age of Fools, looks at the behaviour of the planet's politicians. And, while he claims there are "no jokes about Trump's hair" or amusing references to Britain's Theresa May, he does do a "serious" Trump impersonation and pithily describes Theresa May as the kind of person who opens a bag of chips with scissors. And, unsurprisingly, there are references to the chaotic current behaviour of Australian politicians.
The brisk 75-minute show has an 8pm show at Newcastle's Civic Theatre on Wednesday, May 1, with tickets costing $58.05. And a warning: don't be late in arriving. He makes sharp references to people who don't get there before the opening and asks them why they are late.
Danny Bhoy, the son of an Indian father and Scottish mother, was born as Danni Chaudhry. And, while his stage name might be seen as a joke, Bhoy was a grandmother's maiden surname.