If Theatre has won the 2015 Best Performance by a Theatre Company for Mother by Daniel Keene starring Noni Hazlehurst. The award is presented to the theatre company by Drama Victoria, which has selected the production from the 2015 Playlist for Theatre Studies. On behalf of the team: Noni, Ainsley Kerr, Darius Kedros, Kat Chan and Tom Willis, we are delighted to have the project recognised by teachers and educators all over Victoria. We thank out partners Regional Arts Victoria for all of their work on the project.
I have accepted an invitation to be one of the Keynote Speakers at the 2016 ADSA Conference being held at the University of Southern Queensland in June 2016. The conference is centred on the theme of Resilience.
ADSA is the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies, the peak academic association promoting the study of drama in any performing medium throughout the region. ADSA represents members of staff and postgraduate students of Australasian institutions of tertiary education who are engaged in teaching, research and practice in theatre, drama and performance studies. Directors of associated theatres and members of the theatrical profession are also active members.
Very pleased to accept this opportunity and to present and meet with my education colleagues from across the country and some amazing international visitors including Pete Falkenberg from Free Theatre Christchurch.
All the details are here
Some of the audience responses to the production of Mother:
Incredible acting, the physicality was amazing. The whole audience will go away thinking about this.
Such a beautiful and tormented soul. Noni is such a brilliant actor. It really tugged at my heartstrings and made me realise how blessed we are in our lives. Thank you. Loved it.
A very moving and authentic performance.
Noni’s performance was riveting and powerful.
Brilliant script! Amazing physicality. A privilege to watch. My daughter attended the workshop in the afternoon and didn’t stop raving about it for 2 hours! Thank you.
Brilliant acting! Very sad content. “I was so lonely. I wasn’t lonely any more…” There’s a lot of them out there… Thank you so well acted
Mother is on the VCE Theatre Studies Playlist. We are meeting with students all over the state on the tour who may be writing about it in their exams. Here are some questions from teacher Liz Bastian at Billanook College posed to me about Mother on behalf of her students who saw the show at Healesville. These may be helpful to others so I post them here in that spirit.
Liz: Is there a particular theatrical style that was either implied in the play script, or that you chose to implement in your direction, or a combination of elements from different styles?
Matt: I try really hard to not come into any project with a preconceived notion of style. I talk to the playwright and usually ask them to attend the first reading and ask lots of questions. I am always interested in serving their vision. I have my reasons for wanting to direct a play: I will be intrigued by a character or even just a line. A little window into the world of the play that catches my attention. I was involved in the creation of this work: not the writing of it but a conversation between Daniel, Noni and myself at the outset lead to the script and now the production. If I was pressed to name a style I would probably go with magic realism: what Christie experiences is real and she performs in a naturalistic style but is able to control and evoke the history of her life in the play. I work generatively and allow the actor to find their character and world slowly and carefully. I read the script a lot in preparation, look at images, listen to music, dream about it, talk about it with a small group of people (usually the creative team, some trusted colleagues and with the actor(s) endlessly) and then I don’t read the script once I start rehearsing because I want it to be like talking and to receive it like most of the audience will.
What were the key themes of the play?
Judgement, loss, addiction, motherhood, madness, loneliness, isolation, truth, responsibility. All big concepts. Beautfully wrought by Daniel.
When was the play set and where? (we think its set in contemporary times in an abandoned alley or open space but are keen to have that confirmed).
The play is set in an urban environment like the one you are thinking about. We feel it is Melbourne based on the references in the play to Upfield, Brunswick, Collingwood. We collected most of the props in the streets of Melbourne: all were found objects, discarded by someone and like the ones that Christie might have found herself.
In your direction, who did you envisage that Christie was talking to? We noticed that she didn’t break the fourth wall at all so we inferred that she was talking to herself or an imagined person and using the ‘junk’ to delineate the different ‘scenes’ for her story.
Christie is talking to many people but she is alone. She is beyond the notion of talking to herself, she simply retells this story each night to try to make sense of it. She uses her voice to engage her memories. She doesn’t need an audience. She just needs to try to work out what happened to her. And Beau. There is always Beau.
After three years of planning and working on the production, Mother made its debut last month at the Gasworks Arts Park and is now on tour all over Victoria and Tasmania. The team of designers (Kat Chan on set, props and costumes Tom Willis on lights and Darius Kedros on sound) along with Ainsley Kerr as SM and Tour Manager and the incomparable Noni Hazlehurst have made this an incredible experience and I am very proud of their work and delighted that audiences are responding with sold out houses all over. I will be re-joining the tour in Tasmania from mid July.
Due to our work commitments, Noni and I rehearsed this show on and off over a three month period in three different states and in many diverse locations: a school hall on Tamborine Mountain, a meeting room in Benalla, a studio space in Albert Park, a kitchen in the inner eastern suburbs of Sydney. We are deeply grateful to Tony Smith and his team at Gasworks who provided a home for us when we really needed one and who supported us so well during our production week. I would also like to thank and acknowledge the team at Regional Arts Victoria lead by Kane Forbes: Dale Packard, Ella Bucovas, Rosie Dwyer and Michaela Nutt. RAV have supported this project since 2013 and continue to work on the tour’s logistics and activities with great professionalism. And to Sue Muggleton for all her work on logistics for Noni.
Some remarkable experiences so far:
- listening to the buzz of the room in the foyer at Gasworks on opening night and the sound of the cheers during the curtain call
- meeting the women from Wyndham, Footscray and Moonee Ponds working on the front lines of domestic violence and homelessness. At Wyndham, a wonderful result of our workshop was that these women were able to meet collectively as a group for the first time and they shared contacts, numbers etc. with a plan to continue to meet, share ideas and resources and try to help each other.
- meeting and working with the Year 11 and 12 students at Werribee Secondary College who were so smart and welcoming
- watching the great leadership of Ross LeClerc at Wyndham when they had a power blackout and had to cancel a sold out show. Sitting in the dark dressing rooms with Noni in costume as Christie looking out onto the dark streets was something I will never forget: the show has been rescheduled for July 29 and every one of the 480 people Ross had to turn away is coming back! As am I.
- sitting in the box at Clocktower watching Noni hold 505 people in the palm of her hand as she performed the play: this was Clocktower’s first sold out drama show in its 15 year existence
The tour is winding its way across Northern Victoria as I write this at my new desk on Tamborine Mountain in Queensland. I am looking forward to seeing the show in Tasmania in a week and a half, in particular reconnecting with Noni and Ainsley.