A lyrical story of resilience in the face of insurmountable adversity and an unflinching exploration of ageing and dementia, Sydney Theatre Company brings to life the long-overdue mainstage debut of Patricia Cornelius’ Do Not Go Gentle at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.
Borrowing its title from the affecting Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle uses Robert Scott’s historic attempt to reach the South Pole as a metaphor for the fleeting and precious nature of life. A poetic and moving story of resilience, Cornelius’ Do Not Go Gentle won STC’s Patrick White Playwrights Award in 2006.
Battered by screeching winds and blinded by snow, each member of Robert Scott’s Antarctic expedition party must face hunger, exhaustion and cold that defies imagination. But fractures appear in the tale of this epic journey, and another story emerges – of ordinary people coming to terms with human frailty, fading memories and what it means to have lived well.
Are these weary travellers really trudging through uncharted territory, or are they walking a path of inevitability set out before them? Are they really at the edge of the world, or is the perilous landscape obscuring pitfalls that would test even the most seasoned explorer?
Directed by STC’s Paige Rattray (Death of a Salesman, Triple X), Do Not Go Gentle features an all-star cast – Peter Carroll (The Tempest), Vanessa Downing (Grand Horizons), John Gaden (Saint Joan), Josh McConville (Triple X), Philip Quast (Waiting for Godot, Death of a Salesman), Marilyn Richardson (STC Debut) and Brigid Zengeni (Blithe Spirit).
Rattray says it will be a “masterclass” to work with this incredible cast. “The lived experience and knowledge in that room is incredible. I know I will come out of this a changed person – let alone a changed director,” she said.
Rattray, who is also STC’s Director of New Work and Artistic Development, says she has always admired Patricia Cornelius but has never had the chance to work with her until now.
“The first Australian play I ever worked on was as an Assistant Stage Manager for Patricia’s Love in my first year of University,” she said. “I’ve been a massive fan of hers since then and the fact that I am now working with her is a dream come true.”
“Patricia’s voice and examination of class, in particular the working class, is one that I had not experienced or associated with theatre before. My limited access to theatre at an early age centred around Shakespeare and well-known musicals.”
“Very early on in my career her work made me feel like I could have a place in the theatrical landscape – whatever that was or could be.”
Winner of both the NSW and Victorian Premiers’ Literary Awards, Do Not Go Gentle is a delicately crafted story told in moving vignettes, that inhabits two worlds; one that illustrates the extremity of human ambition and another that dramatises the inevitable truths of our existence.
Director: Paige Rattray | Featuring: Peter Carroll, Vanessa Downing, John Gaden, Josh McConville, Philip Quast, Marilyn Richardson, Brigid Zengeni | Assistant Director: Bruce Spence | Designer: Charles Davis | Lighting Designer: Paul Jackson | Composer & Sound Designer: James Brown | Fight, Movement & Intimacy Director: Nigel Poulton | Associate Voice & Text Coach: Angela Nica Sullen
Do Not Go Gentle
Roslyn Packer Theatre, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season continues to 17 June 2023
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Do Not Go Gentle – photo by Rene Vaile