Scooplight are a Perth based company specialising in site specific, original theatre interpretations of historic places, people and stories in Western Australia.
Established in 2011, the creative partnership between Helen Munt and Julia Jarel give a voice to some of WA’s lesser known historical characters, places and events.
Past productions include the history of Rottnest Island, performed on the island, promenade fashion using original colonial buildings as stunning backdrops. And interpreting the stories and experiences of the men and women from the small country town of Kulin, who find themselves coming to terms with the outbreak of war.
The creative team use original diaries, letters, journal entries and interviews to weave a magical story bursting with historic value, fact and emotion. ‘An Audience with Miss Cook’ is no exception. This production brings to life the adventures of an English Governess as she travels from London to Adelaide, Perth and Rottnest Island.
Writer Helen Munt stumbled across Miss Cook while researching a Perth Governors wife Mena Weld. ‘I came across a small section in a book entitled “the Governess”. I was immediately intrigued by Miss Cook and when I found her diary was lodged at the State Library of Sydney, I had to have a copy.’ Fast forward 6 months and what’s delivered is a beautifully woven tale of life in Perth in the 1870’s, funny, poignant and nostalgic.
This productions locale is a stunner –the Governor’s residence of Perth. Stepping through the immaculate gates of this iconic Perth building, you are immediately transported to an era of opulence and grandeur. ‘An Audience with Miss Cook’ was commissioned as part of Perth Heritage Day festivities, so the residence was teaming with eager history buffs. As beautiful as the residence is, stepping through the doors to the Grand Ballroom where this performance was about to commence is nothing short of breathtaking.
In the title role was Cassidy Dunn. Dunn plays the imaginative, witty and adventurous young Miss Cook with confidence and strength that far exceeds her youth. I am sure many a seasoned actor would have difficulties delivering this quality performance with the many distractions an ‘Open-house’ style of performance brings, namely patrons exploring the historical venue in full view of the performers and audience. But this fine actor did not falter and I was transfixed as Dunn took us into the beautiful world of Miss Cook. Congratulations Cassidy.
Playing what felt like a dozen (or two!) of supporting characters were the talents of Alex McVey, whose beautiful voice resonated through the vast ballroom, and writer Helen Munt. What fun these two had darting in and out of the action, on occasion with farce like quality, with nothing to aid the slick character changes but their physicality and fine talents. Each of their numerous characters were diverse and engaging.
The simple costuming in this production was lovely. I particularly liked the clever decision of the two supporting actors in historically accurate all black. Any element of colour or additional costuming would have spoilt the directorial choice that they are there to support the storytelling of Miss Cook and her adventures. A simple but important choice that emphasised the art of storytelling.
The absence of normal staging devices, lighting, sound and set, and an ‘Open house’ style of theatre, throws many challenges at a director. But Julia Jarel’s directional simplicity and ease of flow was lovely to watch. A less seasoned director could be tempted to play too much into the staging, props and costuming. But Jarel used clever blocking in utilising the beautiful archways and multi levels of the ballroom to achieve space and location. Non- essential props and costumes were thrown out, instead relying on the actors fine skills in storytelling to deliver this historical piece and transport us to a sense of place and time. A credit to the skill of this fine director.
My only criticism of the production, if you can call it one, is that it was only 30 minutes long. I left wanting more and I’m positive the rest of the hundred strong audience was with me on that one.
For more information on this exciting company visit www.scooplighttheatre.com