Call for cane crew to act up

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHAR­LIE MCKIL­LOP

LO­CAL cane farm­ers may have mis­tak­enly thought they had given their finest per­for­mance in last week’s dra­matic cli­max in what has been a dif­fi­cult har­vest sea­son.

But as grow­ers raced to get their rain­soaked crops to the mill, lo­cal play­wright and di­rec­tor Jack Hey­wood was con­jur­ing an en­tirely dif­fer­ent plot for mem­bers of the cane in­dus­try and the broader com­mu­nity.

Hey­wood is about to em­bark on one of this most am­bi­tious the­atri­cal projects yet. Next year, he wants to bring to the stage of Port Dou­glas’ Clink The­atre, Mano Nera - an epic tale set against the back­drop of Far North Queens­land in the 1930s when thou­sands of Ital­ian mi­grants came to our re­gion to work the cane pad­docks.

The play tells the fic­tion­alised ver­sion of real events of an era in which peo­ple, in flee­ing a mur­der­ous dic­ta­tor in their own coun­try, un­wit­tingly be­came vic­tims of vi­o­lence, in­tim­i­da­tion and ex­tor­tion by their fel­low mi­grant coun­try­men in Aus­tralia.

Trad­ing on the fear of Mano Nero, mean­ing Black Hand, was a gang of thugs in­tent of prey­ing on the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of new ar­rivals and was said to be re­spon­si­ble for nu­mer­ous mur­ders, bomb­ings, kid­nap­ping, ar­son and even poi­son­ing.

“They were new­com­ers deal­ing with a cli­mat­i­cally hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, prej­u­di­cial so­ci­ety and even threats from within their own ranks,” Hey­wood said.

“Yet, as we now know, the Ital­ian com­mu­nity tri­umphed in the face of such ad­ver­sity and while in this case, the story is about Ital­ian mi­grants, there are lessons to be learned about the value and as­pi­ra­tions of all im­mi­grants com­ing to make this coun­try their home.”

At the pre-plan­ning stage, the Dou­glas The­atre Arts Group has re­ceived a boost with the an­nounce­ment last week it had se­cured a $12,000 grant from the Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil.

Hey­wood has al­ready met with In­n­is­fail­born play­wright, Adam Grosetti, to dis­cuss his ideas for adapt­ing the uniquely North Queens­land play and over­com­ing some of the lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges of en­cap­su­lat­ing the “epic drama” as well as the “blood, sweat and tears” of the Far North’s fledg­ling cane in­dus­try.

“This is a big pro­duc­tion,” Hey­wood prom­ises. “Tech­ni­cally and per­for­mance wise, it’ll be chal­leng­ing at ev­ery level.”

“The story and its num­bers, con­tent, stag­ing and spe­cial ef­fects all make this an ex­cit­ing project to be a part of. The­atre is such a col­lab­o­ra­tion - it takes a great team of peo­ple to make a great pro­duc­tion.

“The word is out now so we would like to hear from any­one who wants to be a part of it.

“No ex­pe­ri­ence is nec­es­sary, coach­ing is a part of the process.

“I am al­most evan­gel­i­cal about the fact act­ing is not just a ca­reer skill, it’s a life­style skill and one ev­ery­one should have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence at least once in their life­time.”

And as for en­tic­ing some of our hard­ened lo­cal cane farm­ers in from the field to play a lead­ing role, Hey­wood re­mains ever hope­ful some will elect to trade in their trac­tors, al­beit tem­po­rar­ily, to tread the boards at the Clink The­atre.

“The cane farm­ing com­mu­nity is very in­te­gral to the story but I am not sure yet whether we’ll get any as per­form­ers ... I would love it,” he said.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the per­for­mance of Mano Nera in June next year, con­tact Jack Hey­wood on 4099 1598 or Clare Tier­ney on 0437 367 868.

Shady char­ac­ters: Rod­ney Ras­mussen and Nathan Verri con­tem­plate a role in Jack Hey­wood’s new play Mano Nera

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