Has there ever been a more terrifying concept than being trapped? Whether it’s trapped literally or metaphorically, it is something that people run away from wherever possible. Now imagine being trapped, while being 200 feet underground. That’s practically nightmarish.
But this nightmare has been a reality for someone, namely Floyd Collins, and his chilling true story has been the inspiration of an off-Broadway musical by Tina Landau and Adam Guettel.
The musical tells Floyd Collins’ story, as he explores a Kentucky cave and becomes trapped under a rock. The commotion this causes above ground gives way to the first genuine media circus, as reporters and the public become obsessed with Floyd’s struggle.
It is a story we are not altogether unfamiliar with, after bearing witness to events such as the Beaconsfield mine collapse and the 69-day ordeal of the Chilean miners. With films such as 127 Hours we are being more and more drawn into these real-life stories of people suffering through traumatic and life-changing ordeals. And Floyd Collins does not shirk away from this difficult subject matter. Neither does Octave Theatre, who will be presenting this show at Chapel off Chapel from the 17th of August.
Jonathan Skovron, Musical Director of the upcoming production, is equally eager to tackle the difficult emotional range of the show. “Many Theatre People readers will know that our director, James Cutler, is a master of taking a cast to the very deepest emotional level that the show asks of them,” he says. “This show deals with a range of different complex emotions… All the actors have really embraced [the] strangely loveable characters, and James, as usual, has done an amazing job of bringing out the nuances and getting down to that extra level of depth that could be easily missed. ”
With such interesting characters, the cast has hit a potluck of acting gold.
“Floyd's character is naturally introverted,” says Skovron, “but as he finds himself in this terrible situation we get to see him strip back a few layers. Tyson Legg (who plays Floyd) achieves this balance beautifully. Floyd's family are a bit of an odd bunch — a flighty sister who has only just been released from an asylum, a loud-mouth brother who clearly has trouble dealing with authority figures, a stern, pious father who slowly loses his mind as the ordeal goes on, and a step-mother who tries her darndest to hold the collapsing family together.”
And who are the people who will be bringing this characters to life?
“Tyson Legg plays Floyd, and he is a joy to work with,” Skovron says, “especially for me (as musical director), because he himself is a very talented musician (and MD) and the two of us are really on the same wavelength, which is something I don't often find with cast members. [We have] three young-uns; Rachael Conway (Nellie Collins – Floyd's sister); Dan Gale (Homer Collins – Floyd's brother); and Charles Grounds (Skeets Miller, the reporter who squeezes down into the cave to interview Floyd). These three actors are fresh faces to the amateur theatre scene, and they are extraordinarily talented. Each of them has a captivating presence on stage, and I can confidently say that we'll all be seeing a lot more of these guys in the future. The cast is also speckled with some of Melbourne amateur theatre's perennial favourites. It is a dynamic cast, and they have been a dream to work with. This really is one of the hardest musical theatre pieces — both the script and (especially) the score — and the cast have done an amazing job navigating it.”
Not only does Floyd Collins challenge itself with it’s dramatic content, it also presents an unusual musical style for all involved. And Skovron, as musical director, faces this challenge more so than others.
“I saw a description of it once that said [the music] was something of a marriage of folk/bluegrass/Americana and Stravinsky. Adam Guettel is a really unusual composer. There is the distinctive bluegrass feel which really suits the place and period, but Guettel has an amazing way of masking some incredibly complex and quite bizarre music behind this folksy facade. It really is an absolutely beautiful score, and there really isn't anything like it that I've heard in musical theatre, or anywhere really. This score excites me more than any musical I have ever MD'd.”
Intrigued yet? This boiling pot of drama, music, a brilliant creative team, and an exciting cast is bound to get you interested in coming to see Floyd Collins. “Its themes are universal. We can all relate to the idea of fearing death. We can all relate to the concept of solitude. We've all been swept up by some personal story that the media has honed in on and made a spectacle of. This is a story that I think will touch absolutely everybody who sees it.”
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