Newest indie theatre creative in town, Short Straw, is excited to be presenting its maiden play – black comedy, Amnesia – to audiences next month. Gender roles, morality and murder are all themes explored under the setting of our contemporary technological world.
“It’s a contemporary battle of the sexes,” says director Hannah Smallman about the vision of playwright Clancy Fraser. “She’s taken the modern blind date and really blown it out into the ultimate worst case scenario, but still kept it relatable. There’s also definitely some tongue in cheek social commentary on the ethics of the modern day consumerist as well. But really, I think what’s great about this play is that you often find yourself relating to the worse character, the morally “wrong” character much more than the righteous one- that’s what makes it so much fun.”
It’s no surprise then that Smallman’s initial attraction to the play was the genre.
“I love working on black comedies and those things that are a little left of centre” she says. “I like the fact that with a black comedy you’re offering a different form of release to your audience, they can find humour, intrigue and inappropriateness all at once. This I like as I think it’s too easy sometimes to make your audience feel ‘comfortable’ and I find with a black comedy, you can take people out of their comfort zone. This is something I love to experience myself with any form of art.”
Having previously worked in the UK, this is Smallman’s first foray on the Australian stage, and she is very excited to be debuting in Melbourne, which she describes as a great city with plenty of opportunities. Her meet with Fraser occurred whilst “they were on set filming a popular channel 9 TV show about husbands…. at home!” The meet turned out to be a creatively fortuitous one.
“We discussed our own experiences in both acting, producing and directing and decided to keep the conversation going, off set. Clancy presented me with a few ideas after discussing previous work and those things that we like and didn’t like. I spoke of having studied at The Central School of Speech & Drama and having owned my own theatre company back in the U.K. and the type of work I was attracted to. Soon after that, Clancy and I decided to set up Short Straw and so now we are both co-founders of our own theatre company.”
The play features an intimate cast of two. Not a favourite for some directors because they perhaps see it as a restriction but Smallman relishes the intimacy.
“I love working with a smaller cast as you can really dedicate your time and energy into the right things, ” she explains. “It allows you to really focus, to get to know your actors, to take the time to break down the script, pull it apart and put it back together again. As a director, you can work closely with your actors, discussing their characters in much more depth than if you had the same rehearsal period but a larger cast. I can also use my training as an actor to work with my cast making sure they feel nothing but comfortable with what I’m asking, confident and well prepared.”
“On our website, we proudly wrote: ‘Sometimes dark. Sometimes funny. Always entertaining. Creative theatre that trills and engages, without the wank’. And I think this perfectly sums up what Short Straw is about – good, honest theatre without the airs and graces.”
Amnesia is billed as ‘pulling no punches.’ In the modern age of internet dating, Amnesia promises thrills and spills till the very end. Says Smallman: “I’m not necessarily saying it’ll be life changing but you will come out of it a happier, healthier, better looking, more successful, popular version of yourself. Or, you know, just come for a good time and support theatre made right here in Melbourne.”
August 18 – 27
Tickets and information: www.shortstrawpresents.com