UMMTA are bringing The Hatpin to Melbourne stages this September, a unique and compelling Australian musical James Millar and Peter Rutherford, last seen in Melbourne in 2011.
Inspired by a true story and the 1893 Sydney case of baby Horace Murray, The Hatpin is the story of a teenage mother Amber Murray who advertised her baby in the newspaper trading columns, hoping to save his life. A couple accept the child in return for regular child support payments, but end up murdering the child (a practice once known as baby farming). The show follows the journey Amber as she fights the injustices and tragedies of her life, and celebrates the friendship, hope and strength she finds.
“The Hatpin’s comparatively complex portrayal of how the values and societal pressures of its milieu commingle with shared experience, gender and power made it really stand out to me” says first time director Jordan Peters on why the show was chosen.
“I was drawn to the show first and foremost due to its central exploration and celebration of female friendship. This is a theme surprisingly rare in musical theatre in particular”.
The uniqueness of the show lies in its Australian period setting, an aspect jumps out to people, and for good reason. The show is engaging and deals with a dark subject matter, of murder and seeking justice, and one of Peters’ main directorial influences is Fiona Spitzkowsky, whom he worked with on previous productions of The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth.
“Both shows had similarly dark subject matter, and Fiona’s endless curiosity and interrogation of text and performance has definitely informed the way I consume and interpret theatre”, he reflects on his previous shows.
“Making sure the cast treated this true story with respect and sensitivity was very important, and I was blessed to have Fiona serve as dramaturg/sounding board throughout the process”.
As a first time director, he approached the casting process with an open mind, and found his cast intimidating at first, before finding his feet and gaining the cast’s trust (or so he hopes!)
“The whole rehearsal process has been an absolute blast. I’ve learnt so much from the experience, and I’ve truly loved being able to witness such interesting, thorny performances blossom throughout the last couple of months”.
Peters was glad they had chosen such a female centric show, with the amount of talented woman auditioning, and the amount of people interested in getting involved with an Australian-made work was a welcome surprise for the production team.
“The totally infectious chemistry between Eleanor Davey and Emma Gordon-Smith (who play Amber and Harriet, two of the leads) is one of my very favourite parts of the show – they both anchor every scene they’re in while making it all seem so effortless”.
“Seeing Grace Haslinghouse (who plays Agatha) bounce from playing the title role in UMMTA’s Thoroughly Modern Millie to slapstick comic relief in UMMTA’s Urinetown and then completely commit to yet another wholly different and challenging role has made me even more jealous of her incredible range and versatility as a performer” he says about his talented cast with pride.
“This show has been a massive challenge for both myself as a first-time director and UMMTA as a company, so we’ve all been pinching ourselves that the last couple of weeks leading up to opening have run so smoothly”
UMMTA is company he holds close to his heart, serving on its committee and now as director of The Hatpin.
“What makes UMMTA so special is its inclusiveness- one aspect we’ve tried to focus on this year has been forging a welcoming atmosphere for musical theatre newbies (whether cast or crew) to jump into”.
You can catch UMMTA’s The Hatpin from 16 September until 24 September at the Union Theatre at University of Melbourne. Tickets from: https://chook.as/ummta/hatpin