RED STITCH, a highly regarded Actors’ collective, has again found an Irish play to feature in their 2013 season. Enda Walsh is Dublin-born, and comes to this première trailing clouds of glory for his many (17) prize-winning plays, some of which have been equally strongly awarded films, notably Disco Pigs (2008) and Hunger (2001), the film about Bobbie Sands.
Directed by Alister Smith, Penelope (2010) modernises the end of the Odyssey, focusing on the last hours before the return of Odysseus, and we all know what he does.
The play will be performed in conjunction with, and at Theatreworks, 2 Acland St. St Kilda, because it needs the bigger space in order to accommodate a swimming pool as the main feature of a set which will be 2 stories high. That’s only the start of the mayhem promised: it’s an abandoned swimming pool, full of extraordinary junk, a playground of sorts. The play ends with a vaudeville-inspired sequence.
The idiom is not Irish or Homeric, but vaguely universal – a variety of pedestrian vernacular, but each of the four main actors (Dion Mills, Matt Whitty, James Wardlaw and Lyall Brooks), wearing speedos, will get a luscious epic monologue, that according to the Director, is definitely in a linguistically rich Irish style. Penelope will be played by Rosie Lockhart. It’s an experimental and playful play and a stunning script, rich in humour and dealing with what Alister called Big Ideas.
In an interview, Alister Smith has been an actor for the last ten years, and has completed the Director’s course at Victorian College of the Arts in the last two. He’s directed for Red Stitch before, and also for the Melbourne Theatre Company and the Theatre of New Writing, mainly in musical theatre and cabaret. This new show does involve music for specific purposes and it is threaded through the production, but it is not a musical. It is unlike anything else he has ever directed, and he and the cast are enjoying the challenge.