Award-winning director Catherine Hill directs Two-Character Play with actors Dennis Coad and Michele Williams
Two-Character Play sees two actors – brother and sister – on tour who find themselves abandoned by their company. Faced with an audience expecting a performance, they production manage, operate lights and sound, and perform The Two-Character Play. It is a dangerously personal script where the actors struggle to differentiate themselves from their roles and reality from illusion.
"The Two-Character Play is an extraordinary piece of writing" says Hill. "It has the poetry and beauty associated with Tennessee Williams but the form is unexpected and challenging. There’s a play within a play, and within that play there is a story that is so real and traumatising for the two actors that they often forget that they are acting, so they get lost in the story or alternatively alter the script to manage their own fears."
When Hill read the play she fell in love with it. "Williams described it as a Liebestod (love/death) of the two vulnerable and deviant characters. It is tender and violent at the same time."
The play is written by the master himself Tennessee Williams and, Hill says, is essentially about fear. "Fear of confinement, fear of loneliness, fear of loss of sanity, fear of the implacable and impersonal forces in the lives of the two characters – the insurance company who deny them their claim, the shop managers who have stopped their credit, the boys on the street who taunt them and their neighbour’s kids who sling shot their house."
"Written over ten years and after Tennessee Williams himself spent three months confined at Barnes Hospital, St Louis, in 1969, it has an extraordinary authenticity around the desperate and gallant actions taken by the characters to manage their fears. Consequently the play also celebrates human resilience and love."
The cast is intimate with Melbourne actors Dennis Coad and Michele Williams. Hill concedes that working on a two hander is exhausting for the two actors as there is no down time, but it is intense with the creatives getting to know the play extremely well.
"With a larger company you schedule rehearsals so you don’t have actors sitting around, then there is the joy of putting the pieces back together."
"In terms of independent or co-op theater it is much easier to schedule for two actors rather than ten. Last year I directed Calendar Girls for Canberra Repertory Theatre and I didn’t get the entire cast together until the production week. But there is something so special about plays with large casts and getting that ensemble working."
"In this production I’ve been lucky working with two actors who are as inspired and excited by the play as I am and so rehearsals have been great."
" One of the first dilemmas we faced was whether to do the play in a typically Deep South American accent, or to set it in Australia. After about ten days of trying it with an Australian voice and examining the dramatic implications of this we ultimately reverted to the Southern. It became clear that the rhythms and poetry of the language worked best when sticking to the Southern accent. And that the story and themes were universal and transcended the specifics of the play’s time and place."
Award-winning Director Catherine Hill is a graduate of UNSW and WAAPA. She works as a theatre director, actor and script editor and was artistic director for the Melbourne based company Soup Kitchen Theatre for six years, directing many of their shows. She has also directed for the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Canberra Repertory Theatre, University of Western Sydney, La Mama as well as independent producer Malcolm Cooke and Associates. She has been a recipient of both the Ewa Czajor Memorial Award for women directors and the Peter Summerton Award for directors, and has worked for La Mama, Film Victoria and Playbox Theatre. More recently Catherine has been engaged by individual writers to assist in the development or editing of their theatre and film projects. She previously directed A Number by Caryl Churchill for Winterfall Theatre in 2011.
Hill describes the play as a rollercoaster ride and the driver is Tennessee Williams. How can you resist!
"Tennessee says “it is my most personal play a cri de coeur….my most beautiful play since Streetcar.” And I agree. It is a work of genius, challenging, funny and achingly beautiful."
August 12 – September 7