Gary has failed in everything he has attempted but that is not the case for Director Samuel Chappel who will re-stage his very successful interpretation of Gary's House for Eltham Little Theatre later this month.
Chappel describes ELT's interest in re-staging the play (which was originally staged at etc last year) as a touch out of the blue.
"The idea originated, I believe, with the play selection committee at ELT. A couple of members had seen the show at Essendon and evidently believed it deserved a wider audience, " says Chappel. "The idea was taken to the central committee and they came to me and asked if I'd be interested in staging it at ELT. I then spoke to the cast. I'm not sure if I could have done this without the original cast. Putting together the original production was thrilling but emotionally draining for all of us I think and I would have completely understood if one or more of them had been hesitant to go through it all again. As it is they all jumped at the chance and I remain eternally grateful to all of them for that."
Eltham Little Theatre have been a great support to Chappel for many years. He describes ELT as having been a major part of his life, on and off, for almost a decade.
"It was one of two companies, along with the Hartwell Players, that introduced me to theatre and fostered my love for it during my formative years," h says. " I started out working backstage, perched on a precariously high balcony dropping tiny bits of paper to simulate snow. From there I was encouraged to get onstage, which I did, with relish, and it was ELT who gave me my first ever directorial gig. ELT for me embodies the idea of 'community theatre'. It is a space for the community to perform, but it is also a warm and diverse community in and of itself. ELT means a lot to a lot of different people. It's a place to escape, to socialize, to create and ultimately, to thrive. I truly appreciate the faith they consistently show in me, despite my relative youth and inexperience."
The original cast was Bryan Richardson, Ben Mitchell, Emma Whately, Peta Owen and Joshua Correa. Ben Mitchell earned himself a VDL Nomination in the best supporting actor category 2013 – a fine acknowledgment representing the high calibre of work that all had contributed to the first incarnation. That's why Chappel has no plans to shake up the winning formula. He plans to leave things more or less as they were. Although, he does concede, that the new venue does provide an opportunity to do things differently, and possibly iron out some of the issues which, on reflection, he would have changed. "Other than that its more or less a chance to revisit, amend, adapt and allow the play to continue the organic development it began at Essendon."
Chappel describes the fist meeting with the Gary's House script as 'all a bit strange.'
"When Director Tess Maurici-Ryan moved to NSW last year she had to give up her directing slot at Essendon and she suggested that I fill the spot," explains Chappel. " The Essendon committee had originally planned to stage on 'The Odd Couple' but decided against it and asked Ben and I to put together a few plays we'd like to do and present them. So we came up with a list and sat down with some others and read them, I forget the full list, but they included a Williamson and another Paul Simon. At the last minute, Ben pulled the script for 'Gary's House' out of his proverbial and we read it. I'd never heard of it before but I fell in love with it instantly. Some of the themes the play explores mean a lot to me personally, but more than that it was the quality of the writing and the vivid accessibility of these emotionally beaten-up characters that really brought it home for me."
Gary's House is about Gary’s life, which, thus far, has been a failure. When he inherits a rural block of land, he seizes the opportunity to carve out a better life for him and his very pregnant girlfriend. Things, however, don’t always go to plan but it is the theme of place, or home, that is central to this play. "All the characters are drifters, they have spent their lives running away from something," Chappel explains. "The cobbled together house ( Gray's house is actually built on stage) serves as both a metaphorical and highly tangible symbol of their ingrained desire to find a place to belong. The house brings people together and tears them apart. I think anyone who has ever been emotionally linked to a house, or a home, or a birthplace can relate to this."
" It's a beautiful Australian script performed by some exceptionally talented actors, but more importantly, there's free grog after the show!" And, in the world of theatre, is there a better reason than that!
20th – 29th March 2014