Attack of the Periaktoids. Notes from the Sherlock debrief

Monday, 8th December.
Sherlock Holmes and the Legend of the Jersey Lily.
Sherlock Poster
Debriefs are designed to look at a production and reflect on what went well and what else we need to work on. We had a dozen people turn up tonight to talk through Sherlock Holmes.
There was a range of valuable discussions to do with a range of issues from the practical to the philosophical. The practical included working in the old theatre and the issues involved in working there. The philosophical included ideas about approaches to the play. All of us have ideas about how we would approach a play and sharing those was interesting.
One interesting idea involved the future of the old building. Everyone agreed that a long term plan that involved demolishing the old theatre and replacing it with a purpose-built theatre. There was also a lot of talk about the need to fix our costume and props storage. Luckily executive met tonight to talk about the major working bee in January designed to fix this problem. Watch this space.
On the philosophical side, the group discussed what’s best described as the set change issue. With four locations (plus a dressing room scene) this was a set-heavy show. The production team made use of the Periaktoids to solve the problem. Their theory was that the peris would speed up the set change process. However, the realistic sets and the number of furniture pieces meant that the set changes still took up to seven minutes.
The discussion around this was the highlight of the debrief. Some audience members really enjoyed the set change process, some found the breaks of no consequence and some found them distracting. In talking around the issues, there were some interesting insights for designers. The peris are designed to make changes quicker but they’re more suited for non-realistic sets with big splashes of colourful design items. They are okay for realistic plays but for the theatre savvy, the gaps and inconsistencies of finish are distracting.
The season of Sherlock itself did well financially, taking around $14,000. There were discussions about the strengths of the production, many of which centred on the quality of performances.
The whole debrief procedure is an important part of what we do as a theatre. Thank you to all who took part in tonight’s event.

The Boys – A Gritty “Whydunnit” Drama

by Debra Hely

I was at the Opening Night of The Boys at NTC. What a brilliant piece of theatre! If you enjoy robust theatre that digs into society’s issues and can cope with language, you won’t want to miss this production.

This strong play written by Gordon Graham, introduces us to the Sprague family: the matriarch Sandra (Cheryl Sovechles) and her three sons, Brett (Michael Byrne), Glenn (Craig Lindeman) and Stevie (Duncan Gordon). Each of her boys has a girlfriend, Michelle (Amy Wilde), Jackie (Natasha Steggles) and Nola (Cherie MacKinnon).

Even though as the photographer, I was fortunate enough to witness several rehearsals, my lens-based focus meant I had missed action that happened outside my peripheral gaze, not to mention the subtleties of the script. Sitting in the audience, thinking I already knew what I was going to see, I was quickly blown away by the impact of seeing and hearing everything at once. Nothing replaces the impact of strong meaty drama being acted out live on stage.

This production, directed by John Wood comes across as a genuine ensemble piece, from the robust and believable (often scary) character portrayals to everything that the entire creative team also contributed, including the set, costuming, lights, sound and so forth. Everyone who contributed must be very proud of how all the work has come together in this gripping drama.


Yes, the language is as foul as one would expect from violent misogynistic men who are overloaded with hate and resentment seeking someone or something to blame for their circumstances. The only solution they seem to understand is a physical and brutal one.

The violence is for the most part confined to the audience’s imagination. However, a few scenes give hints of what is going to manifest such as when two of the brothers scuffle and the girlfriends are subjected to nasty verbal onslaughts and the occasional off stage biff. Amazingly, the mother insists that she brought her boys up to love and respect women. She constantly indulges their whims and tantrums, accepting this aberrant behaviour as normal and typical of men.

The audience is treated as intelligent, and lots of questions are raised. Is the cause of such heartless violence to women due to a cycle of poverty? A lack of education? A broken family? Childhood abuse? Drugs? Alcohol? Or even men egging each other on to fit into their macho ideals that demean women? Or is it due to combinations of these factors? Or other circumstances altogether? The audience observes, reacts and then starts to think. There was a lot of discussion in foyer after the play finished.

We see how the women rally to defend their menfolk, only to slowly accept the truth as it emerges. These truths impact them on ways they don’t understand, in particular why the public blames them as much as the boys. Emotionally, the only way they can survive is to stick together. Scared, lost and bewildered, they start to question how they can raise a boy so that when he’s a man, he won’t go down the same path as his father.


This powerful piece of theatre had the audience appreciating the moments of humour, but mostly we were spellbound, only able to breathe freely again at curtain call, when we enthusiastically clapped as hard as we could. The commitment to their part by each and every actor was one of the major strengths of this production.

Yes, I’m biased. I’m a member of NTC, I’m on the Committee and last year I was on the panel doing the play selection for this year. I’m not only biased, I’m very proud. This season of NTC has been diverse, powerful and engaging with many excellent performances / directing / sets / costuming / singing / and plays that can make you laugh, cry, tap your feet, or even think – in other words be moved. And we still have two more plays in the season.

The Boys is on right now; the last performance is on the 18 October. Contact the theatre, via the office, online or Facebook. If you have a social conscience and like your drama meaty, you must see it.


Challenging play, challenging responses

Source: Maitland Mercury, Wednesday September 9th 2014

Source: Maitland Mercury, Wednesday September 9th 2014

The Maitland Mercury yesterday published this very good photo and an article about our upcoming production of the boys. You can read the full article here:
What’s most interesting, though, is the responses that we’ve got from readers of the Mercury on their facebook page.. Most articles attract one or two comments. This one has attracted over thirty comments and replies.
The tone of a lot of them is negative, versions on the theme, ‘How dare someone do a play about such a terrible story!’ A few of us have weighed in (politely) in the play’s defence. For me, it reinforces exactly why we should take on challenging work like this. The criticisms in the paper seem to be suggesting that we should brush issues like the ones dealt with in The Boys under the carpet and hope they’ll go away. Clearly that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The challenges being presented by this play are significant. It asks questions about our society, the men in it, poverty and the effect of shocking events on others in ways that go beyond tabloid newspaper headlines. I’m looking forward to our production. Here’s hoping some of the facebook critics come to their senses and maybe even come along and see it!

The Boys – Gordon Graham’s challenging play.

The Boys is a profoundly disturbing play which examines both the events that lead up to an appalling climax and the aftermath; shedding light on a sadly dysfunctional family of a mother and her three sons and their girlfriends.

The Boys DLThis is a courageous play that we should be proud to call Australian It has a lot to say about a society that can accept the dogma that the very rich just seem to get richer and the poor have little hope of ever changing their life’ s path. Be brave and come and meet the Sprague family, you may be shocked but won’t be disappointed.

John Wood directs a highly talented NTC cast, led by Michael Byrne’ s power hungry Brett and Cheryl Sovechles, playing his worn down mother; the cast is completed by Amy Wilde, Craig Lindeman, Natasha Steggles, Duncan Gordon and Cherie Mackinnon.

The play was an AWGIE award winner. The film based on it won four AFI awards


Bookings are essential.

www .newcastletheatrecompany or phone (02) 4952 4958 between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday .