Laughs and love, new plays loom

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Two new Canberra-made plays are about to open in Civic.

“Warts and All” is not a pretty title for a play billed as a light comedy, I suggest to prize-winning Canberra playwright Bruce Hoogendoorn, but as he explains, “it’s about one family involved in airbrushing their family history.

Bruce Hoogendoorn… directing.
Bruce Hoogendoorn… directing.
“The most famous plays of all time are about families – ‘Death of a Salesman’, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and even ‘Hamlet’,” he says.

In this play, 17-year-old Simon has been sent to stay with his grandmother in Queensland after he becomes ill, and finds her in the middle of writing the family’s history, part of what the playwright calls “a real boom”.

Hoogendoorn is directing his own work and with his plays being now being performed as far away as Aberdeen, Scotland, he says he’s “developed a lot of confidence”.

His all-star cast includes the extraordinary Oliver Baudert playing an 80-year-old woman, as well as Rob De Fries, Will Huang, Helen Vaughan-Roberts, Adellene Fitzsimmons and Elaine Noon.

The play, which has seen 13 drafts before this, focuses on older women characters, each trying to sort out the difference between truth and selective truth.

“Yes, it’s a light comedy, but it’s got some emotional impact to it,” he says.

EMMA Gibson, too, is a notable playwright, not long back from New York’s La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, where one of her works was read.

When last we chatted, her play, “Widow Bird”, had been read at a conference in Stockholm, after which she holidayed in Denmark, sitting in a boat in Copenhagen harbour near the statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid and writing a play inspired by it.

“Johnny Castellano is MINE” is the result, and it will soon be seen in a professional production at The Street Theatre, staged by Canberra Youth Theatre director, Karla Conway.

Gibson describes it as “a tale of obsessive love, about never wanting to let go” – that’s the little mermaid motif.

There’ll be no spoilers from Gibson, but it’s told from the female point of view, with the exciting dance artist Alison Plevey playing the main character.

“I think every high school has a Johnny Castellano – charming, tragic and exotic… the very kind of boy that parents worry about their daughter meeting,” she says.

 “Johnny Castellano is MINE”, The Street Theatre, until April 12, bookings to 6247 1223 or

 “Warts and All,” The Courtyard Studio, until April 12, bookings to 6275 2700 and


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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