Highlighting the collision of opposites and the tension between inner and outer forces, OpticNerve Performance Group presents the Australian premiere of The Mill on the Floss at Theatre Works from 30 July 2016.
Maggie Tulliver grows up in a provincial English town, where her quick imagination and intelligence are stifled. Her story spans 15 years, beginning when she is nine years old, and explores relationships with her parents, brother and various suitors, and the social norms she is forced to embrace.
Based on George Elliot’s 1860 novel, Helen Edmundson’s adaptation distills the essence of Eliot’s feminist novel and reveals how Maggie is shaped by her environment and circumstances. Both Tulliver and Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) were women ahead of their time. At the time of publishing under the pseudonym, George Eliot, no one suspected her gender because the writing was considered to be too good to be written by a woman.
One of Melbourne’s most celebrated independent theatre ensembles, OpticNerve is committed to theatrical research; the investigation of performance-making processes, the adapting of narratives from other media to the stage and the revisioning of original texts. In search of a dynamic, text-based physical theatre, its vision is to push the boundaries of theatrical form.
The intense physicality of the work becomes a language of innermost thoughts and emotions where eight actors playing 17 characters promise a world of haunting resonance and mesmerizing moments. The final product is an experience for the audience where they are listening to a coherent and literal narrative, but are seeing an altered world through the action of the actors.
Directed by Tanya Gerstle, former Head of Acting at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and founder of OpticNerve, The Mill on the Floss will be the culmination of a six-week residency by the Company at Theatre Works. Gerstle’s rehearsal space is a collaborative milieu where ideas and provocations are explored, and the creative team embody a shared language that enables them to collaborate and create.
“I had an instinctual response to The Mill on the Floss as dramatic material,” said Gerstle. “I could delve deeply into the female psyche to tell a story of the dispossessed and I ‘smelt’ the potential for a delicious collision between content and form. Downton Abbey meets Chunky Move.
“The women of this time are not only held in by corsets but by social convention and exclusion from opportunity. Remarkably their struggle is still that of every woman in our contemporary ‘third world’ and many of those in the ‘first’. Patriarchy is alive and well. Theatrical outrage is an ever timely, ever-valid response.”
OpticNerve’s earlier work includes: Five Kinds of Silence – a radio play by Shelagh Stephenson reworked for the stage; Manbeth, after Shakespeare’s Macbeth; YES – based on a film by Sally Potter; and Pale Blue Dot – an original work as part of Malthouse’s 2012 Helium season.
Director: Tanya Gerstle Performers: Zahra Newman, Grant Cartwright, Luisa Hastings Edge, Tom Heath, Rosie Lockhart, Emma Tufrey Smith, George Lingard, James O’Connell Lighting and Set Design: Lucy Birkinshaw, Stewart Campbell Sound Design: Russell Goldsmith Costume Design: Martelle Hunt Singing Design: Richard Lawton Voice and Dialect Coach: Geraldine Cook Workshop Manager: Loraine Little Workshop Director: Stephen Phillips Stage Manager: Luke Preer Production Intern: Hayley Sorrel Producer: Hannah Liddeaux
The Mill on the Floss
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Season: 30 July – 13 August 2016 (previews: 28 & 29 July)
For more information, visit: www.opticnervepg.com for details.
Image: The Mill on the Floss