Mastering characteristics and expressing emotions for a live performance that captivates its viewers have not changed in thousands of years of live performance history.
From 1960 the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney housed in a converted boatshed at Neutral Bay, was Australia’s first theatre-in-the-round.
Modern plays with a vigorous, pared down realism were the order of the day and the theatre became at that time, Sydney’s training ground for actors, including Reg Livermore who played Admetus.
Some modern plays are in reality no different than those performed in antiquity, when the traditions of Theatre also spelled theater, were first laid down as both players and audience participated, albeit in different ways.
Must say that I was actively involved in plays at High School and remember vividly the first performance I ever saw a play live on stage as a young adult. The production was The Thracian Horses (1964) presented at the Ensemble Theatre, written by Maurice Valency (1903-1996) playwright, author, critic, Professor of Comparative Literature, Columbia University.
It was a witty and gently ironic retelling of the Alcestis legend and had such an impact and influence on me that I have absolutely loved the medium ever since and certainly try to get along to a performance whenever I can.
Each October in Sydney today students at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) showcase the skills they have acquired by presenting a season of plays, some as engaging as a modern day soap opera.
They are often comedic, sometimes full of love and passion, with vengeance, justice, racism and misogyny also part of performances that make an impact on those present, as the actors move through love-hate relationships, murder, intrigue and drama.
This year’s offerings are all suitable for ‘adults only’, with the finale play for 2016 Woyzeck, containing nudity, strobe lighting and adult themes.
This will be the last time some students will perform before adding “NIDA Alumni” to their resumes and head off into the real world!
The plays are open to the public and include two original compositions (the first by Indigenous playwright Nakkiah Lui and the second by NIDA Writing for Performance graduate Laura Lethlean, an Australian play, a German classic and, an English play-turned-film.
This year’s season includes
#KillAllMen, directed by Anthea Williams and written by Nakkiah Lui (commissioned by NIDA) and featuring NIDA students graduating from Acting, Costume, Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, Technical Theatre, Stage Management, and Staging.
The synopsis: eight women create an Internet utopia where they discuss the most intimate details of their lives; who is the most righteous, and the most hilarious; dating, camming, work, love, and how to be an out and proud feminist.
When one of them disappears after being attacked everything changes and suddenly the play met morphs from joke to reality.
The Space Between the Fuel and the Fire featuring NIDA students graduating from Acting, Costume, Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, Technical Theatre, Stage Management, and Staging has been written by Performance graduate, Laura Lethlean.
Directed by Constantine Costi, also a NIDA graduate, this production explores the ‘reality’ of three friends living in a world of television executives, sponsor children and geriatrics.
They are constantly looking forward, looking for betterment, looking to be something other than what they are now, and striving to succeed at life but at the detriment of living.
Another Country has been written by Julian Mitchell and will be directed by John Bashford. The synopsis: set in an English Public School in the late 1930s, Julian Mitchell’s play explores how the world of private wealth and centuries of tradition is challenged by two unorthodox pupils.
Bennett is coming to terms with his sexuality while Judd embraces a revolutionary philosophy. The fourth year common room becomes a political battlefield where the snobberies and tribalism of the Establishment come under scrutiny as one young man seeks a future within the world of the elites, while the other rails against it.
The Season at Sarsaparilla, written by Patrick White and directed by Kristine Landon-Smith, features NIDA second year Acting students and graduating Costume, Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, Technical Theatre and Stage Management, and Staging students and looks at the post-war Australian Dream of a brick veneer on a quarter-acre block in the suburbs is under scrutiny.
The synopsis; this is ordinary suburban Australia: three houses, three backyards, three lawns, three families living side by side in frugal comfort and conspicuous normality. Look a little closer however, and the disappointments and yearnings of each and every character are revealed. With biting satire, Patrick White reveals the dreams that underlie the veneer and sobriety of normal life.
Kristine Landon-Smith returns to NIDA to work with Robin Dixon as dramaturg on this humorous and poetic text. The three families living side by side mirror the cultural heritages of the ensemble drawn from NIDA’s second-year actors and this reimagining gives insight into a post-war Australia still in the shadow of the “White Australia policy”.
Woyzeck by Georg Büchner the finale play has been adapted by Writing for Performance students and directed by John Sheedy. It features NIDA second year Acting and graduating Costume, Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, Technical Theatre and Stage Management and Staging students.
The synopsis: written in 1836 by German playwright, activist, scientist and medical doctor Georg Büchner, Woyzeck is generally regarded as the first social drama in German literature.
A dramatic fragment of 31 scenes, it was considered one of the most radical plays of its period in both language and subject matter and it continues to be a challenge for directors, actors, and set designers alike.
NIDA Writing for Performance students have dissected George Buchner’s raw and unforgiving text into a new 21st century adaptation.
Two worlds are explored, one of a cinematic world of hyper-naturalism and experimental performance methodologies, the other of a heightened theatrical fever dream and social drama.
Woyzeck deals with dehumanising experiments, with madness and obsession, with murder and all things that move us.
For any theatrical performance to be considered a success depends on whether the eye and ear of the spectator are stimulated and engaged while viewing the spectacle supplied by performers as a testament to the integrity of the theatre and its enduring power.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
NIDA OCTOBER PRODUCTION SEASON
19–25 October 2016
19–25 October, 8pm
NIDA Theatres, Space
The Space Between the Fuel and the Fire
20–26 October 2016
NIDA Theatres, Studio
18–25 October 2016
NIDA Theatres, Atrium
The Season at Sarsaparilla
19–25 October 2016
NIDA Theatres, Playhouse
14–20 October 2016
NIDA Theatres, Parade Theatre