1812 Theatre has chosen a surprisingly different Williamson for their Season VI, one in which the oft out spoken playwright does not tackle world issues but rather settles for a far softer and romantic theme (but not without the usual Williamson satire) in this comeback romcom.
Scarlett O’Hara at The Crimson Parrot was written for the amazing talents of Caroline O'Connor and was on the MTC programme in 2008. It as here that 1812 director Chris Proctor first saw the play and really enjoyed it. "When I got the script and read it, I loved its quirkiness and the fun of it and the fact that it is not a usual Williamson play," says Proctor. "It also offered a challenge technically which I was keen to try. I liked that it is a contemporary Australian play set in Melbourne. I also thought that our audience would love the old movies and enjoy the fantasy of the play and put it forward as a play for the end of the year."
The play revolves around Scarlett, a 36-year-old waitress who lives with her mother, has no boyfriend, and who spends most of her time off watching old romantic movies – her working life is spent rerunning them in her head. "In this play Williamson explores fantasy and myth in our lives," explains Proctor. "Scarlett has a difficult life with her ‘she-devil’ mother harassing her to find ‘a man so she can have grandchildren and a lovely house to live in’. To cope she lives her life through her fantasies of the classic film stories hoping to have her “someday my prince will come” moment while never experiencing it. She fantasises about love with her boss at the Crimson Parrot restaurant (Steve). When an opportunity of a relationship (Allan) does appear she nearly blows it."
Proctor also acknowledges that Williamson also makes fun of political correctness, sexual harassment, the perceived role of women, mother and daughter relationships and bigotry towards gays. "Williamson makes light of these issues in a way that makes it all the more telling for the audience," says Proctor. "The play is a classic feel-good story and so a very different Williamson play."
Accomplished actor Donna Pope will be tackling the role of Scarlett. This role requires an "all-rounder" just like O'Connor herself and Proctor feels he has found his true Scarlett. "I have watched Donna's development over the years and she has a wonderful comic sense and timing along with an ability to embrace the fantasy and bring it to life," admits Proctor. "The script requires the actor to play the role ‘straight’ without indulging in caricature and I was sure that Donna could do this. The play does call for her to sing a la Caroline O’Connor but both Donna and I did not feel that she was up to it, so we have lip-synced her singing in the movies."
Like most plays worth doing, this one offers its fair share of challenges. Proctor identifies the major challenge as a technical one which requires the ‘morphing’ of the actors in the play into the movie clips and projecting these clips onto the set. "Community theatre is not blessed with unlimited funds to engage a film production house for this task and so we have used two of our members with a keen interest in making movies to take on the task. I am delighted with the results," says Proctor. "The other issues are more prosaic – fitting three sets (Restaurant, Kitchen and Flat) onto an 8-meter proscenium arch incorporating a large screen and using relatively inexperienced cast members for a number of the roles. All of these seem to have been overcome through hard work and ingenuity. I was also surprised at the amount of food preparation that takes place in the play and this has presented some challenges as none of it can be cooked on stage."
Proctor is the best man to tackle these, or nay, challenges as his pedigree is long and pure. He has been involved in community theatre since school and university, but has spent 45 years with 1812 as an actor, set builder and designer then eventually taking on the directing role. His credits include: all three Norman Conquest plays, Two Weeks with the Queen, Dealer’s Choice, Blackbird, Rough Crossing and A Majority of One. He has won Lyrebird awards for Best Director and Best Set as well receiving several nominations at the VDL Awards including Best Director for Blackbird. Proctor is also a past Chair of the 1812 Theatre and the current Treasurer.
1812 is certainly on a winner with this production, Cast, crew and director will ensure a brilliant adaptation of this Williamson play. then there also the Williamson factor to ensure success – Williamson is one of Australia's best known playwrights earning millions at both the MTC and STC box offices. Proctor feels the success of the David Williamson story is his ability to address contemporary issues from a very Australian perspective. "He has attacked all of the issues that have become important before we have really addressed them as a society," he says. "Themes such as bigotry towards minorities, political correctness, corruption (both moral and financial) and feminism have all had a number of airings in his plays and so we all come away from all of his plays discussing these issues before we otherwise would. While ‘Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot’ does not overtly do this, some of the issues are there such as homophobia and sexual exploitation."
"Unlike most Williamson’s plays this is a delightful comedy that indulges all our fantasies and allows us to enjoy Scarlett’s love of the classic films, Casablanca, Calamity Jane, Gone with the Wind etc while laughing at her attempts to find love and romance. It is a rather raffish comedy to finish off the year. I know I loved the play when I saw it and I am sure audience members will also."
Nov 21st – Dec 14th.
Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat 8.pm (Sun Matinees Nov 24th & Dec 1st 4.pm )