Secret Bridesmaids’ Business by Elizabeth Coleman is what happens when things don’t go to plan…..
Purely Pensive Productions was formed in 2005 by Angie Bedford and Jeremy Ives. The company is based in Melbourne’s North east and was formed as a base for young people to explore their potential in the world of non professional theatre. The company isn’t only for the young, however, as the current production will attest to.
Secret Bridesmaids Business is an Australian play which tells the tale of Meg Bacon, her mum, and girlfriends as they come together in a hotel suite to have some girlie fun before Meg’s wedding the following day. What ensues will test the strength of all concerned and will force those involved to make some hard decisions.
I spoke with both Angie and Jeremy about their company, the upcoming production, the future and a few bits in between.
Secret Bridesmaids’ Business by Elizabeth Coleman has become quite an iconic Australian play. It is filled with ideas of mateship, the notion of ‘secret women’s business’ and that famous vegemite reference. What is it that appeals to you about this play?
Secret Bridesmaids’ Business appealed to us because of its feminie charm. We have a lot of talented actresses audition for us, and it was great to find a play with high quality female roles that our actresses could really sink their teeth into.
Also, the Australia flair to the show helps to make it recognisable and comfortable to our audiences to watch and participate in the show. We’ve all had experience based on a wedding that evokes some kind of emotion, so its very appealing to all kinds of audiences.
The play is quirky with a definite Australian feel. Do you believe that this is a part of its charm?
Yes, definitely. The characters are characters you can instantly warm to and recognise from people within your own life and experiences. We all had a great chuckle reading through the play before we decided to do it. Laughter is good for the soul.
It is, on the surface, a simple, light tale about a girlie night before Meg’s wedding but, as we know, there is much more to the tale and actually delves into some meaty territory for the actors. Can you talk a little about your process as director in relation to how you lead your actors to journey through these heavier themes.
The way in which the actors have been directed reflects their own personal experiences. The process has been a very real process with the actresses Hayley Gamble, Leah Milner and Hannah McRae who play the Bride and Bridesmaids’ having to get to know one another really well so their friendship seems real on stage. I think everyone can either relate or have an opinion on the situation the girls find themselves in.
When casting , were you looking for particular ‘types’? Was it difficult to cast this play? If so, why?
Casting was an extremely difficult challenge. Probably one of the most difficult castings I’ve been part of at Purely Pensive Productions. We were blessed with so many talented actresses applying for the roles. In the end it really boiled down to the chemistry and believability between the actors involved and some great casting decisions were made. I think the actresses we chose adequate reflect the playwrights characters while also bringing their own originality to the roles.
How was the decision made by Purely Pensive Productions to choose this particular play as part of their 2011 season?
We really wanted to choose something comical and also something that could showcase female actors as we had had previous success with the show Bombshells. It really reflects on the work we present as we like to promote Australia works and Australian playwrights and its themes sit well with our audience and membership base.
The play is being performed at The Mechanic’s Institute. The show will have to be bumped into the space closer to performance time. Are you finding the idea of having to rehearse away form the space daunting at all and can you talk a little about the progress of the rehearsal process to date?
I think the cast will be a little sad to bump into Mechanic’s Institute as our rehearsal space has really become like a second home over the past few weeks. Rehearsals are going tremendously well and we ensure that the space is marked out approximately to the space at Mechanic’s Institute and we ensure that we have the space set up with temporary sets so the cast feel comfortable in the space and with what they’ll be working with.
What do you hope the audiences will take away from this show?
It’s an interesting questions as I believe males and females will have different reactions to the show. Some would argue the show is about love, some loyalty, some life decisions. I’ll be happy as long as audience members can walk away knowing that they were absorbed n the life of Meg Bacon for two hours and were able to escape their own lives, that’s when a show is successful.
As co-founder of Purely Pensive Productions (along with Jeremy Ives) can you tell me a little bit about how this partnership came about and then how the decision to form this theatre company was made?
Jeremy and I attended high school together, and discussed (half-seriously) forming a company around about Year 10. By Year 12 we had a stronger idea, and we had our first meeting soon after we graduated. Our first production was in May of the next year; it all happened very quickly and we haven’t stopped since!
Our main motivation was to create a group where we could continue to create theatre in a comfortable environment with our peers. Over the years it has evolved into a more formalised environment, and we are able to perform known works and some adaptations of classics.
Purely Pensive Productions is now in it’s 6th year. Can you talk about some of the challenges you have encountered over the years and some of the more ingenious, if you will, solutions that Jeremy and yourself have had to find to keep things flowing?
We’ve been very lucky in that our company achieved financial success with our first show, and has continued to since. This has enabled us to focus on developing the organisational and artistic side of PPP, such as moving from devised works to known works and dramatically increasing our membership.
The main difficulty was getting more help! Jeremy and I were the main organisers for the first couple of years, but we now have a solid committee of 8 to help us out. I have no doubt we had some ingenious solutions over time, but it’s been such an exciting blur that I can’t think of any example. We certainly have come up with the ‘PPP way’ of doing things, but it’s a secret formula!
Can you talk about the roles Jeremy and yourself adopt from the beginning of a show i.e. the audition process – to the final night? i.e. do you act as producers? If so, what does that entail from yourselves.
Jeremy’s role as Artistic Director involves short listing shows for selection, and supervising the entire Artistic process, including the appointment of the Director and he is on the audition panel. I have produced every single PPP show so far (for this show and the last I’ve been joined by the lovely Erin Brass!) so that means overseeing the whole production side of things, including the dollars and cents, techies, theatre hire etc. In short, it involves a lot of time and energy, but fortunately it is now second nature to us.
And finally, what is next for the company?
Next up is Michael Gow’s Away, which we’ll be performing in September. It’s a fantastic Australian play by a renowned playwright, and it’s going to be fabulous. Worth coming to see the bucket loads of sand on stage alone! We are currently looking for a Director, so Theatre People readers can visit www.purelypensive.com.au if they’re interested!
Secret Bridesmaid’ Business will be playing for 3 performances only at the Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre Cnr. Sydney and Glenlyon Rds Brunswick. From Thursday April 7 to Saturday April 9 8PM. Bookings can be made online here: http://www.purelypensive.com.au/tickets.php