Eye of the Needle by Peter Robinson, a script in development, received its first public reading last Friday evening (November 25, 2002).
Elbow Theatre, directed by Canberra Critics Circle award winner Iain Sinclair, used its second last bucket of grant money to employ a professional team of actors for a week: new young actors, Lara Lightfoot and Tom Woodward, with the well-known Hec Macmillan, Camilla Ah Kin, Susan Lyons and William Zappa (recently seen here with Bell Shakespeare).
The script is an interesting study, with a nice sense of humour and touching sadness, of a Canberra diplomat's attempt to bring his family together at what surely must be his Malua Bay coast house: he couldn't live in the Canberra house after his wife died, and now realises that he is on the way out too. His son, daughter-in-law, her sister, and their children have a skeleton in their cupboards which becomes revealed to all.
Though in the form of a farce, the revelation leaves the future to a dysfunctional arrangement. At the end of the reading (at this point only an hour long), there was a palpable sigh from an audience wishing for more. So Robinson now faces the task of either taking more time to reach the revelation, keeping the focus on the old man, or peeking into the inevitable emotional mess of a third act.
I spent some time talking with William Zappa about the week's process. He was clearly impressed with the easy relationship which Sinclair had set up between the actors and author: a thoroughly satisfying experience for him. I found myself immersed in top-quality professional development discussion, here, at the Courtyard Studio in Canberra. No need to go to Sydney, or Melbourne, or anywhere.
Elbow Theatre is the descendant of Theatre ACT and Canberra Theatre Company: the in-town professional company complementing the largely touring Women on a Shoestring and the specialist Jigsaw Company. But what's this about the second last bucket?
The last bucketful will go on the development of Mary Rachel Brown's Intimate Strangers, to be seen in February/March 2003. After that Elbow Theatre goes the way of its predecessors, ironically just as Iain Sinclair travels away on a Churchill Fellowship to build on his already extensive international training.
Once again at the political and administrative level Canberra fails its arts community. What will happen to Peter Robinson's script - a play directly relevant to Canberra audiences? Is the problem in the Cultural Council, in artsACT, in lack of Ministerial leadership? Any other city of 300,000 worth its salt would have three Elbow Theatres.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
Return to Frank McKone'sHome Page