music / Canberra Symphony Orchestra, ACTEWAGL Llewellyn Three, Llewellyn Theatre, July 18. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
FIRST performed at The Q in Queanbeyan in March last year, Jordan Best’s production of “Playhouse Creatures” is set in 1669 in England after Charles II decreed that men were no longer to play the roles of women on stage.
On the surface that seems to be a great time for women so long denied the chance to act. The reality is that women found it to be a precarious occupation only one step away from prostitution and poverty.
Focusing on five of the most famous actresses of the time, including Nell Gwynn and Mary Betterton, the play doesn’t flinch from showing what it was probably like behind the scenes.
With the generous support of the Canberra Theatre Centre, the play was performed for one night as a fundraiser for the Pigeonhole Theatre Company. It will take the play to the Princess Grace Theatre in Monaco as part of the 16th Mondial du Theatre, an international theatre festival commencing on August 21, where it will be representing Australia among the 24 countries from five continents.
Due to a condition at the festival that performances not last longer than an hour, this performance was a carefully edited version of the script. In addition, to take the play to Europe, the company has had to dispense with the two-level set seen in the original production.
Having seen the opening night performance last year in Queanbeyan, I was struck by the added depth and polish in the characters presented by each cast member in this ensemble production. The cuts in the script were not detectable and Jordan’s Best’s restaging without a set flowed smoothly and was enhanced by an atmospheric lighting plot by Cynthia Jolley-Rogers.
The huge audience at The Playhouse gave the cast a well-deserved ovation at the end of the show. I’m sure all of Canberra is wishing the company good luck in Monaco!