Just what we love to see, something NEW, FRESH and EXCITING.
In my view there is nothing better than witnessing a new work of theatre. Sure theatre companies in Melbourne love to through up words like ‘Australian’ or ‘Victorian’ Premiere (I always laugh at the Australasian premiere… I mean who really cares right?), but if you can get past what is usually just a marketing ploy, get excited because new works are always the most interesting.
Enter The Doorstep Ensemble with 3 Sides, their brand spanking new production about three people sharing one relationship. The show itself premiered at the Finsborough Theatre in London, before a highly acclaimed season at the New York Music Theatre festival in 2006.
The show explores what happens when a delicate love triangle collapses, when stories blur and truth, which hovers dangerously above us all, comes crashing to the ground. The result is a touching intimate and hilarious take on contemporary relationships viewed through the eyes of three characters unwittingly locked in each other’s embrace.
The Doorstep Ensemble have brought together an incredible experienced cast with Australian and West End experience and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to speak to them and their director about the upcoming concert version of this exciting new show. I sat down recently with director Jolyon James and cast Natalie O’Donnell, Bert LaBonte and Simon Gleeson.
TP: The shows tag line is ‘there are three sides to every story – mine, yours and the truth’. Sounds intriguing! So what exactly is the show about?
Jolyon: ‘Three sides to every story’ essentially means that we invent our own histories and mythologies. One individuals version of an event will differ radically to another’s depending on their own personal view of the world. When we attempt to fit another person’s belief system into our own there will usually be an element of friction. This is where we find our three characters. All are radically different; all are searching for something or someone else and all tightly holding onto their own version of themselves. Soon and unknown to each other the two boys (Ant and Brian) become romantically linked to Carrie, a girl at a crossroad and suddenly everything is up for grabs.
TP: You are all highly accomplished actors. What is it about a small show like ‘Three Sides’ that appeals to you compared with say your larger professional engagements?
Natalie: I have had a long association with Darylin and Doorstep going back to my teenage years. I was actually one of the original Doorstep ‘Kids’ when Darylin started the Doorstep Youth Theatre Company and it was my training ground before WAAPA. Daz and I had wanted to do something together for a while and Three Sides seemed like the perfect project.
Simon and I knew Grant Olding(the writer) from our time in the UK and Simon has actually been in the show in London. When I saw it I fell in love with it. The music was superb and the simplicity of it’s structure was so effective. No Big sets, No big effects. Just a beautiful Character driven story.
Bert: The show is a new work and to work with such great friends on a three handed piece of theatre let alone a musical just seemed too good to pass on.
Simon: I’m drawn to the intricacy of Three Sides. It’s nice to work on a piece where the emphasis is solely on storytelling and not on the demand for ‘production values’. A new multimillion dollar musical is a juggernaut, it’s exciting and involves an enormous amount of collaboration, which is great to be part of. But in a smaller piece the collaboration is concentrated and I enjoy the intimacy of the process.
TP: The show has generated good buzz since it ran at the New York Music Theatre Festival in 2006. Why do you think this is? What is the shows major appeal?
Jolyon: There is a real desire for small smart boutique musicals at the moment. What they may lack in production values they make up with challenging intellectual and emotional appeal. This show is a wonderful mirror to us all, if we don’t directly identify with these characters we certainly have friends or loved-ones just like them.
TP: How do you feel about working on a new piece in this case an Australian premiere? It must be a thrill to tackle characters that both you and an audience has no preconceived ideas about?
Natalie: I feel really lucky to be presenting this work for the first time. Especially because Grant is one of the most successful young writers of Musical Theatre in the UK at the moment, and his work has never been performed here. I also just really believe the piece should be seen, so I’m really proud to be a part of that.
Bert: New works can be tricky sometimes because they are still works in progress or getting constant re-writes but Three Sides feels as though Grant (the writer) had these songs in his head for a long time. It’s material that anyone who has ever felt love, or confusion or fear of commitment ……….(so most of us ) can relate to.
Simon: I’m fortunate enough to have done the show originally in London where I had a minor voice in the creation of the piece. It’s nice to have had a chance to see how much audiences enjoy Three Sides. It will be great to do it again here in Melbourne. I think Australian audiences will really latch on to the humour and the beautiful music.
TP: Three Sides focuses on the delicate love triangle played out by your characters. How do your characters fit within the story and what parts of the character can you personally associate with?
Bert: The story revolves around 3 people who throughout the piece seem to know each other as friends but a lot of scenes take place outside of the story….if that makes sense. I guess my character is laid back muso, bit of a smart ass but ultimately a nice guy. So yeah we are pretty similar. But unlike him the commitment issue isn’t one with me. Married two children so I’ll be drawing on some mates lifestyles to get me through…..that’s a joke. Sort of!
Simon: Brian is a little lost. He’s uptight and a bit of a workaholic. He is also crippled by self-doubt, especially when it comes to his "successful" brother. Looking at Brian as an archetype I think that there’s some of him in all of us.
Natalie: Carrie is very much on a journey familiar to us all of trying to ‘find’ herself. I think it’s really interesting how over the past decade or so society has put a real focus on this. You just have to look at the success of something like ‘Eat Pray Love’, as an indication of how we are continually searching for where we fit. And it’s a really positive thing however I think when you look deeper you also have to consider how there are sometimes repercussions to soul searching. It’s really easy to justify our actions under the guise of ‘finding ourselves. What’s rarely discussed these days is how that quest can also deeply affect those who are entwined in it. This is what Three Sides explores.
I think I am a bit like Carrie. I’m an Aquarian so I have a bit of the free spirit thing going, although being the mother of a four year old has definitely reined that in!
TP: You are presenting the show as a concert version in the lead up to the shows run with MTC. How are you using the shows score alone to effectively tell the shows story and how have you approached the show artistically, given the reduced capacity for staging?
Jolyon: The Doorstep Ensemble is a very small company with a big vision. The concert version will enable us to raise funds for the Melbourne season with has much larger production costs. We decided on the concert version because the original production in the U.K was conceived with music only. The book [scenes] are a new element to the show but it still functions very strongly without them and will generate interest in the piece.
TP: Final words on the production….
Jolyon: The cast are my dream cast. Simon and I have been looking to work on a project for over 10 years and given his connection with this piece in London it was an obvious choice. Nat and Bert are dear friends also who I admire incredibly. Natalie and I played opposite each other in the original Mamma Mia cast which was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life and we all share a collective vision of the direction musicals need to move to remain a viable artform.
Bert: Overall just very happy to have been given this opportunity to be a part of this piece which is shaping up to being something special. Can’t wait!!!
Natalie: I think it’s really important that companies like The Doorstep Ensemble are giving a platform for these smaller character driven shows to be performed. Especially in Australia where it’s often the only opportunity for them to be seen. It’s great for me as an actor to be able to indulge myself in the kind of work that really got me into Musical Theatre, however what is really appealing to me is that Australian audiences are being exposed to quality work from both here and overseas. And that hopefully they can see that chamber musicals like this, deserve as much exposure as our ‘Big-Budget’ Musicals.
Simon: I’m just thrilled to be a part of this company. Jol and Bert have been friends of Nat and mine for a long time and having a chance to work with each other has been great. And it’s been equally enjoyable to work with Darylin, John and The Doorstep Ensemble who are doing such innovative work. Grant Olding has been a mate of mine for years and I know that he is extremely excited about the Melbourne production.
The Doorstep Ensemble presents
Geelong Performing Arts Centre
TWO NIGHTS ONLY: 28-29 October
For more details check out our ‘What’ On Section’