This year’s newest festival on the block, The Poppy Seed Festival, ends with Vicky Jones’ unapologetic award winning play, The One.
Red Stitch Theatre actor, Ben Prendergast, stars in this new age feminist take on taboo topics in such a way that rattle foundations.
Prendergast plays Harry – one half of Jones’ destructive and co-dependent couple. For Prendergast, characters like Harry are hard to define when you personally feel so diametrically opposed to them. “He’s book smart, a young English professor, narcissistic, fancies himself all over, but for whatever reason found himself in a destructive relationship with Jo, ” explains Prendergast. “She’s his equal, If not in age or accomplishment, certainly in cruelty and co-dependency! Is he a villain or a victim of his nurturing? There are clues into the mum, the back-story of his travels, and the way he treats Jo that no doubt are there to provide answers for the discerning audience.”
Jones is a theatre maker that has been around since about 2005. She is not afraid of challenging her audiences in a sometimes unorthodox fashion and is very interested in pursuing the unvarnished truth above all else. Her themes are universal but indirect – a very interesting and rewarding mix for both actor and audience.
“Jones is a wunderkind of new feminist writing, she writes about such themes not with a clear cut agenda, but with an obliquely human lens, so that you don’t feel you’re being preached at, which I love,” says Prendergast. “I think the best way under the skin is to represent a problem, make it multifaceted, then throw a good production at it! The audience will quickly dive deep into that mix I’ve found, and come out asking questions. Surely that’s the aim of good theatre?”
The One also stars Wentworth’s Kasia Kaczmarek, whose love of the script encouraged Prendergast to read it with surprising results – Says Prendergast: “When I read it I felt parallels to past relationships, ghosts of my own past, and in some ways a feeling that exorcising demons might come with the territory of doing a play like this. With my actual partner no less.”
Challenges have come in the form of a split-rehearsal period where Prendergast was touring another dark epic of a piece to Sydney. “So you have development of the Harry character for two weeks (on book), then bugger off and be someone else on stage for four weeks, then come back and put Harry back on (off book), ” he explains. “In some ways a huge challenge in others a welcome perspective shift, I think I’ve found new stuff to bring to this project that wouldn’t have existed without that distance from the text. Walking Bondi uttering some of these lines can’t have been the most comforting of environments for my fellow beachgoers.”
The One is described as the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” for the digital generation and is 65 intense minutes of sex, violence and snack food. It is the final instalment of this Year’s Poppy Seed Festival and comes fully endorsed by Prendergast and co.
“By coming to the show” , says Prendergast, “you are supporting art at large. Poppy Seed is a new theatre festival supporting those artists who mightn’t otherwise be able to put on these works. You’re also supporting Fire Curtain Co and some amazing creatives who have been given a platform to go for it. And you’re getting yourself a cracking show in the bargain, I can promise you it’s one of those shows you’ll need a hug, a shower, or gin afterward. Or perhaps all three.”
December 2 – 13