Your Mum presents Troy's House by Tommy Murphy.Bicentennial Centre, Queanbeyan, Thurs April 13 - Sat April 15, 2000, 8pm.
Queanbeyan playwright Tommy Murphy gave himself seven years to become a "theatre professional" when he spoke philosophically to The Canberra Times over chips and gravy in the Central Café back in 1998.
Already the Cultural Centre Queanbeyan (CCQ) protégé had had a successful production of his first play For God, Queen and Country, directed by Garry Fry, after winning the Sydney Theatre Company 1997 Young Playwright award, which also took him to the Australian National Playwrights Conference as a youth observer. With introductions from CCQ Director Gunnar Isaacson, Murphy had met with enthusiastic responses from film and theatre people in Scandinavia and New York. As Young Shakespearean Actor of the Year 1997, he mixed with other young award winners from around the world in an intensive two-week training session at the Globe Theatre, London, in the northern summer of 1998.
Murphy's second play, Troy's House, has progressed from a fascinating 1998 draft with gravy stains into a wild sort of satire of modern teenage angst, set in Canberra, "a suburban town that as far as I can see is an ideal setting for a romantic sexy story." "I am never entirely happy with the show," says Murphy, now a mature 20-year-old. "It's an encouraging discontent that excites me about the next night's run and the next project." It's his drive to keep working and re-working the play that has taken him through a production last year at Sydney University which was picked up by the Australian Theatre for Young People for a season at The Wharf Studio 1, followed by an offer from Tamarama Rock Surfers artistic director Jeremy Cumpston to include Troy's House in this year's Theatre Hydra Season at the Old Fitzroy Hotel.
But discontent rules. Faced with moving into the real world of Sydney pub theatre, though "I had made close friendships [and] had a cast with whom I was very happy ... I decided that I should open auditions for all the roles, to reconsider my direction and interpretation as well as providing fresh ideas from a new cast and to test myself and the script."
The new production, currently (till April 8)in Sydney and coming to the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Centre April 13-15, has been compared with the Australian icon film Muriel's Wedding for its zany picture of suburban dysfunction. The connection with the film is close, perhaps, because Gabby Millgate - who played Muriel's sister - fell in love with the role of Troy's mother Diane and now has the part. Lucy Wirth, the original Diane, now plays Felicity, the main character in the play whose experiences become much more surreal than anything in Muriel's Wedding. Her alter ego, Teree (Anna Barry) takes her on what Murphy calls "a tour from a point of view accelerated 1000 years. She reminds Felicity that human history can remember a lot of unremarkable people."
His character Felicity's anxiety about whether she will be remembered shouldn't be a worry for her author, judging by Murphy's progress so far. His next project is under way, a script being developed with his film-maker elder brother Marty, which remains a mystery at this early stage. It's unlikely that the return of Queanbeyan's ex-patriot will be forgotten, though how the transition will work from the tiny claustrophobic stage and close-encounter audience of the Old Fitzroy Hotel to the clean cool aircraft hangar of the Bicentennial Centre will be a wonder to behold.
Maybe the School of Arts Café should consider a shift from cabaret to what one Sydney reviewer, Colin Rose, delightedly described as "an obscene, trash-talking send-up of dead-end youth and their blighted existence in the nation's capital." Changing the menu to suit might be a problem, however.
Murphy's 1998 seven-year program seems a mite pessimistic now, after only two years running with Troy's House and his theatre group Your Mum already with money in the bank. The Queanbeyan season is a credit to the CCQ and Gunnar Isaacson's work in encouraging young people to make their own way in theatre and media. We will keep watching Murphy's progress.
Your Mum presents Troy's House by Tommy Murphy. Bicentennial Centre, Queanbeyan, Thurs April 13 - Sat April 15, 8pm. Thursday Matinee 12 noon. Bookings: 6298 0298.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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