A wel­come sur­prise

Fremantle Gazette - - THEATRE - Tanya Mac­Naughton

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.

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