A welcome surprise
TENNESSEE Williams is one of Sarah Christiner’s favourite playwrights so she was surprised when she stumbled upon an unknown work of his, Not About Nightingales, at the State Library of WA last year.
“I found it randomly and it was one I hadn’t heard of so I thought I’d give it a read,” Life on Hold Productions director Christiner said.
“As soon as I read it, I knew it would be our 2020 show.”
There was good reason for Christiner to be unacquainted with the Williams work.
The play was lost for about 60 years until English actor Vanessa Redgrave hunted for the script after learning of its existence while researching another Williams production, Orpheus Descending.
“It had been written in the 1930s and she finally uncovered it in the 1990s and got it produced on the West End and Broadway in the late 1990s,” Christiner, of Como, said.
“It has his quintessential type of writing which I love, but it’s much more visceral and you can tell it’s from a young author. The story has a distinct Tennessee Williams aspect to it, but it’s also a much darker and violent story than he usually tells.
“Williams wrote this as a college assignment so he was only in his twenties when he wrote it. At that time, everyone was advocating for political issues and theatre — pretty routinely from what I’ve read — would announce scenes like they were newspaper articles. It’s the first play I’ve read that does it.”
Not About Nightingales is a gritty slice of penal life from its time, based on the true story of a prison scandal at a Philadelphia jail in the mid-1930s and blended with a love story and surreal scenes.
“I don’t think there are many likeable characters in this story,” Christiner said.
“I’ll be really interested to hear what audiences think happens after the play. Even the cast and crew have different ideas as to what happens to the people who survive the show and what those characters go on to do.”
“I think it’s a hopeful ending and other cast members disagree, but I kinda like that.”
The cast of 14 actors prepared for the season with a photoshoot at Fremantle Prison, which Christiner said helped her with ideas for staging the play, which shows at the Last Drop Canning Vale, September 11 to 26.
Tickets at taztix.com.au.
Not About Nightingales cast members Trevor Dhu, Curig Jenkins, Phil Barnett, Josh McGee with director Sarah Christiner.