Things are not what they seem in Essendon (no
21st June, 2009
By Chris Baldock
Essendon Theatre Company, producers of quality theatre since 1976,
usually mounts four full-length plays a year. Past hits include
Charlie’s Aunt, Hotel Sorrento, ‘Allo ‘Allo, Blithe Spirit, Steel
and last year’s VDL Award – winning Enchanted April. But for
their next season, they are about to present a different type of
evening for the company – a unique set of One Act plays under the
intriguing title Things Are Not What They Seem.
Co-directed by Natasha Boyd and Josie Parrelli, four very different
plays will be showcased, with themes running the gauntlet from
smoking to peer pressure, eating disorders to taking risks, plus
body image, as well as the audition process and a couple arguing
about tomato sauce!
The plays are:
What’s the Matter with Mary Jane
written by Wendy Harmer
Two Women and a Chair
written by Michel Olsen
10, 000 Cigarettes
written by Alex Broun
The Ketchup Bottle
by Tony Morinelli Devaney
Theatre People spoke with Natasha on the eve of the show’s premiere.
Theatre People: Your show sounds intriguing. What are they about
Natasha Boyd: The overall theme of Things Are Not What They Seem
derives from the perspective of making things appear different to
what they are. The show will open with the 20 minute piece,
10,000 Cigarettes which was written by Melbourne playwright Alex
Broun, and features four sisters discussing the glamour of smoking
but ends with the twist that they have just attended the funeral of
their father that passed away from smoking-related cancer.
Melbourne playwright Michael Olsen wrote the second 30 minute one
act play Two Women and A Chair which looks at what happens
when two very different girls turn up for an audition, with no
director and just a chair to distract them. The third piece is by
another local playwright, Tony Morinelli Devaney’s The Ketchup
Bottle which is essentially a couple arguing about tomato sauce
for 10 minutes.
The final and main one hour one act play, What’s The Matter With
Mary Jane was written by writer / comedian Wendy Harmer and
deals with a girl’s journey through anorexia and bulimia. It was
written as a one woman show, but we have been granted permission to
stage as a six women ensemble piece to show that eating disorders
affect a range of women.”
TP: So why have you chosen these plays in particular as a night’s
NB: These four one act plays feature seven female actors and one
male actor, (some with dual roles). Some of the pieces allow the
audience to be solely entertained, to laugh and empathise with the
characters, whilst the subject matter of others are more topical (ie.
eating disorders and smoking in particular) and address how young
women struggle with body image, coming of age and peer pressure.
Both of us (Natasha and Josie) have a background in teaching and
performing, and have been driven to present these pieces to address
these relevant social issues. Josie has known various people in the
industry who have developed eating disorders under pressure to
conform to an ideal of looking good / thin, thinking this is their
only way to get work on television and film. When I was a year level
coordinator in various high schools, she saw too many girls
suffering from low self esteem, bending to peer pressure to smoke,
drink and partake in harmful activities. In addition seeing young
girls develop control issues with food, punish themselves by
starving and throwing up, losing weight and withdrawing from society
was a worrying thing.
Sometimes theatre can be a medium of reaching out to girls in need,
as well as getting the audience thinking, and hopefully engaging
them in discussion about these pertinent issues for women (and men).
Our focus is to empower women and let them see and realise their
true potential and beauty. It is also a chance for family members
and friends to try and understand these issues, and also get
TP: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in putting this
NB: There is a fine line between entertainment, comedy and drama,
especially when the shows you present deal with sensitive issues
such as eating disorders or smoking-related cancer. We have been
very careful in our staging of this. All of the cast know of someone
who has had an eating disorder, so we always have it in the back of
our minds that these issues are painful for some to deal with or to
watch, but we are also wanting to show that there is hope, and light
at the end of the tunnel. If the whole show was just depressing in
our prediction, we think this would cast a more negative impression
of the illness, and we definitely want to let people know that there
We’ve been fortunate to get support from the Eating Disorder
Foundation of Victoria who have sent a family support officer to
talk with our cast about this illness. They are also providing
additional support material to us to give to audience members and
any school groups who are thinking of attending the show so they can
have discussion sessions back at the school about these issues.
Production dates are 18th – 20th and 25th
– 27th June at 8pm,
with a special 2pm matinee on 21st June. BYO nibbles and
drinks for restaurant style set up.
Tickets: $15 each or $100 for table of 10 (i.e. $10 each).
Venue - Bradshaw St Community Hall, Essendon.
Tickets ph. 9330 4808