In a small Western Australian town, 13-year-old Ort Flack is coming to terms with terrible changes in his world. Long ago, his parents ‘dropped out’ to follow a hippie lifestyle. Now his father lies paralysed in a coma, his older sister is consumed by hate, his grandma exists in a fog of dementia and his once-carefree mother can’t cope.
For Ort, the struggle to understand the world around him draws him towards the supernatural. Lonely, frightened, loving unconditionally and full of optimism, he becomes obsessed with the belief that somewhere ‘up there’ someone or something watches over them all, controlling their destiny, and that his father can be cured.
Then one day a mysterious stranger appears and bewitches them all. Tim Winton’s novel about a young boy’s experiences of love, loss, faith and family has been adapted into an evocative piece of theatrical magic-realism embracing the author’s rich colloquial language and infused with humour, spirituality and humanity.
New Theatre welcomes back director David Burrowes – who brought a vibrant, irreverent and modern take on The School For Scandal to the New Theatre stage in 2015. “One of the great things about taking on this project has been revisiting Tim Winton’s novel,” says Burrowes.
“It’s such an incredible, complex and nuanced work, and I find his realistic cynicism very compelling, his ability to tell a touching story but avoid sentimentality, grounding it very much in the recognisable and the everyday.
“The characters are broken people, there’s no triumphant redemption, but it’s not a depressing story. It serves as a metaphor for what many of us experience in life – the ups and the downs, coping and surviving despite the odds.” It’s been an exciting time in the rehearsal room as the team works to shape what audiences will see on the New’s stage next month.
“We’re using the structure of Richard Roxburgh and Justin Monjo’s 1994 adaptation,” says Burrowes, “but we’re bringing much more of the book’s wonderful prose into it, so in some ways this is a new performance text. Our aim is to challenge audiences expectations of what theatre can be.”
Burrowes has pulled together a top creative team to work with him on That Eye, The Sky. Tom Bannerman (set) is one of Sydney’s most experienced stage designers; whose genius was recently seen on the New Theatre stage in a multi-level wonder for The Ritz. Alana Canceri (costumes) has been wardrobe coordinator and/or designer on many productions, most recently My Zinc Bed and Good People – both for Ensemble Theatre.
Benjamin Brockman (lighting) is one of the brightest talents to emerge on the scene in the past few years. Previously at New Theatre, he was responsible for the evocative lighting design for When the Rain Stops Falling (2015). Other memorable work includes the striking palette of primary colours used for Shivered (Mad March Hare at PACT Theatre, 2015).
Director: David Burrowes Featuring: Alex Bryant-Smith, Joel Horwood, Shaun Martindale, Jenae O’Connor, Romney Stanton, Simon Thomson, Emma Wright Set Designer: Tom Bannerman Costume Designer: Alana Canceri Lighting Designer: Benjamin Brockman Sound Designer/Composer: Hugo Smart & Dean Revell Dramaturg: Rachel Chant Production Manager: Mikaela Atallah Stage Manager: Patrick Howard
That Eye, The Sky
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 17 March – 16 April 2016
For more information, visit: www.newtheatre.org.au for details.
Image: That Eye, The Sky – courtesy of New Theatre