Alana Tranter takes her role preparation seriously. Tranter stayed on a farm and went travelling into the bush at night to experience what her character, Maggie Kelly, might have felt when she went visiting her infamous brother, Ned Kelly. The Kelly girls would take food to where Ned and his boys were hiding in the middle of the night. Night-time bush outings were just one of the many things the cast have spent their time doing to better understand their characters and the life of Ned Kelly. Ned Kelly is a character familiar to all Australians, but in preparing for the upcoming world premiere of Ned: A New Australian Musical, Tranter discovered just how little she really knew of the real story.
Tranter has been involved with this new musical from the very first workshop. The first reading was really just going through the script and singing the songs. In December last year a two week workshop was spent improvising the scenes and talking about the characters, what the performers felt was missing and any problems they had with the show. Further readings followed until the show was finally ready for production – and now Tranter finds herself rehearsing for an upcoming world premiere. To originate a role for a world premiere is something many performers only dream of doing.
Tranter knows what a huge opportunity this is and she is incredibly grateful and excited. After all the preparatory workshops she feels very attached to her character of Maggie and admits it would have been very difficult to watch someone else play the role in the opening season.
Maggie is rather shy and quiet; only speaking when something needs to be said, explains Tranter. Maggie is very close to her brother Ned. She is extremely loyal and willing to do anything for her family. Tranter loves the development of her character through the musical: Maggie finds her voice and her power and strength as a woman as the story unfolds.
“She’s incredible!” exclaims Tranter.
To prepare for her role, Tranter has done considerable reading on the life of Ned Kelly and his family to really understand Maggie Kelly. She has also learnt a great deal more about Ned Kelly himself and admits her opinion of Ned has definitely changed through all her reading.
I asked Tranter if she thought Ned Kelly was a hero or a villain?
“I don’t know!” she responded, explaining her opinion is constantly shifting.
What she does know is that Ned stood up for what he believed to be right. While she thinks audiences are likely to come away with the idea that Ned was more hero than villain, as musicals tend to lend themselves to that sort of conclusion, she says there is certainly room for interpretation and there are moments in the story that will cause the audience to realise Ned wasn’t the nicest of people at times.
As opening night creeps closer, there are still moments each day that give her goosebumps or someone in the cast sheds a tear. Tranter says the music is truly incredible. Her performance of ‘Such Is Life’ is just a taste of what audiences can expect when Ned opens on Friday night.
“(Ned) really has the potential to be the biggest Australian musical we’ve ever had” says Tranter. “The story is ours – and it really lends itself to a musical.”
The promotional video clips and recent performances at a media call suggest Tranter may be right. Just how big will this new musical become? Only time will tell. For now, there are six performances scheduled at the recently opened Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo. The picturesque setting of the old Sandhurst Gaol will create a unique ambience before the opening night audience even take their seats inside the theatre – and this itself would suggest it’s a worth a visit to see this new musical in such a unique setting.
Ned: A New Australian Musical opens on Friday night at the Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo.
– Friday 22nd May at 8pm
– Saturday 23rd May at 8pm
– Sunday 24th May at 2pm
– Friday 29th May at 8pm
– Saturday 30th May at 8pm
– Sunday 31st May at 2pm
For more details: http://www.nedmusical.com.au/