Arts / Pigeonhole Theatre on a roll

Karen Vickery in ‘Switzerland’. Photo Dominic Northcott

CANBERRA’S Pigeonhole Theatre is on a roll, and director Jordan Best has plenty of good news to tell.

For one thing, as “CityNews“ reported last week, its July production of Joanna Murray Smith’s psychological thriller “Switzerland”, part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s 2018 subscription season, has completely sold out, so much so that Best has been telling members of her support creative team that she isn’t sure if she’ll be able to get them in to see it. “I might not even get in myself,” she jokes.

For another, after Best and Pigeonhole missed out on artsACT and Australia Council funding to remount their hit, April de Angelis’ play “Playhouse Creatures”, she wrote a pleading letter to ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay, upon which Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced $15,000 grant to help get them on the road.

The play, first staged by them at The Q in 2015, then in a benefit at The Canberra Playhouse, toured to the Princess Grace Theatre in Monaco for the 16th Mondial du Théâtre last year, then was picked up by Australian touring company HIT Productions.

The grant, which Best sees as a way of getting the company on a professional footing, will pay for a redesign of the set and lighting rig and other expenses associated with touring the show to Northern New South Wales and Queensland in August this year then to Melbourne, regional Victoria and NSW then Sydney in May 2019.

But right now all eyes are on now on “Switzerland”.

Director Jordan Best

Not since Everyman Theatre’s play “Home at the End” was commissioned from Duncan Ley for the Canberra Centenary, has a local theatre company appeared in the subscription season.

“I expected it to sell, but I didn’t expect it to sell out two months before the show,” Best tells “CityNews” today.

She puts the huge public response down to the personality and writing of playwright Joanna Murray Smith herself – “people love Joanna, she is a wonderful character… also, many people will be aware of the play and now it’s their chance to see it.”

“I hope it appeals to Canberrans… I think Canberra audiences are ready to get behind their own professional work… For me it’s exciting,” she says.

Best exhibits no false modesty, telling us: “I have a good very good track record producing high-quality theatre and Karen [Vickery] is an impeccable actor.”

Vickery, a former NIDA staffer who now works at the National Portrait Gallery, plays Patricia Highsmith, the eccentric author of “The Talented Mr Ripley”.

When she is visited by the apparently naive young editor Edward Ridgeway, played by recent WAAPA graduate and former Canberran Lachlan Ruffy, it’s game-on, as Murray Smith’s scintillating is bounced backward and forward.

Best also looks forward to working with set-designer Michael Sparks and lighting-designer Cynthia Jolly Rogers, whose work she judges to be “dynamite”.

And what’s on the agenda in the future for Pigeonhole Theatre?

“Well there’s always next year’s subscription season… we are hoping ‘Switzerland’s’ success may have them looking our way again,” Best says.





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