Call for cane crew to act up
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