Hayman Sunday Theatre (March 2020)

‘Hayman Sunday Theatre’. Each Sunday evening, the Curtin Theatre students present two 45-minute plays. These plays are also performed at 12.10 on each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Each week one play drops off and a new play is added; with around 30 lunchtime plays per year this gives the students a huge variety of genres and a vast range of experience as they all take turns at lighting, costumes, design and directing.

As the Hayman Theatre undergoes expansion and yet another makeover, at present these performances can be seen in the Art Workshops (building 206) in the south-east corner of the Curtin Campus, just off Manning Road in Bentley.

‘Lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons and lemons’                    is a strange play about relationships, written in 2015 by a very young Manchester-born playwright, Sam Steiner. The scenes are achronological, as the action jumps backwards and forwards through time.

The Set: was designed by Chloe Palliser and is an upmarket student flat with a settee, dining table, clothes rack against the back wall and a single double bed.

Props: Gabi Munro has worked hard to create a typical ‘lived in’ dwelling using a myriad of props.

Lighting designer, Tiahna McBride showed good use of colour and subtly faded the light levels as the action moved around the apartment.

Sound was by Alex Comstock, Colourful costumes Kiri Siva and Stage managed by Isobel McWilliams

Smart young articles solicitor, Bernadette (Amber Anderson) has met insecure Olivia (Emily Bell) at a rally. Olivia is one of these radicals that passionately supports every cause on the planet. She is intense and although Bernadette shows great patience to her partner, their relationships seems to stagger from day to day.

The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime, far too many. They decide to limit their daily use of words to stop arguments and be more precise in their chats. So, they must announce the length of their next sentence – being careful not to run out of dialogue – can they manage with only 140 words?

A very difficult two-hander to present, however, director Jasmine Valentini with dramaturg assistance from Kailea Porter have really pulled this off. In the play’s original script Olivia is listed as Oliver and yet in the play’s premiere, writer Sam has cast a girl for Oliver – still leaving the boy’s name in the programme. This is a play for thinkers, you cannot expect to be spoon fed.  The two actors were magnificent, great chemistry and a cracking pace. The dialogue was fractured and yet the poor actors still followed each other smoothly. The emotions were for ever changing and yet the two performers were faultless. Pleasantly different.

The second show of the evening:

The 146 Point Flame’     is a dark drama by American playwrights Matt Thompson and Julianne Eggold. This 35-minute tragedy shows the horror and employment conditions of only a century ago. 

The Scene: Based on the historic 25 March 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City when 146 people perished.

The Set: by Emily Bell was simple and allowed the audience to become totally involved with the dire situation and the pathetic lives of the workers. Four black 60 cms wooden cubes are in a line in front of a cyclorama. The cubes act as the work benches, then the factory building’s windows several storeys up.

Jasmine Valentini’s dramatic lighting design  brought the whole vision alive. The lighting operator Pauline Rosman had a great feel for the situation. Soundscape by Natasha Weir and Alex Comstock further increased the horror. Smoothly stage managed by Clodagh Berryman.

The costumes were perfect for the period, with long flowing skirts of muted colours and basic cloth quality for the poverty-stricken immigrant girls. Well done costumière Jane Tero.

Four young girls, mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe are stitching to a backbreaking rhythm set by the heartless and lecherous male assembly supervisor (Travis Koch).

Each of the workers recall life in their home country. For Vincenza (Jade Woodhouse), Tessa (Sacha Emeljanow), Lena (Cait Griffiths) and Yetta (Hetty Lobegeiger) the streets of gold did not materialise. Instead their lives are now that of slaves. One day a girl tries to collect the cabbage (material offcuts) but is threatened; they decide to revolt against the foreman, who then chains the doors to ensure the slaves do not run away.

With minutes the building is on fire. As the workers stand on the windowsills deciding whether to jump or perish, we see the pandemonium on the street below and hear their final thoughts.

Directed by Kailea Porter and dramaturg devised by Jasmine Valentini’s, this is A VERY moving story, beautifully interpreted, directed, enacted and visually presented. The horrendous September 11 attack ninety years, almost on the same site, might have killed twenty times the number of people but these 1911 deaths would have been slow, inescapable and fraught with just as much fear. A first-class performance.

Every one of the sad lives is listed on https://trianglefire.ilr.cornell.edu/victimsWitnesses/victimsList.html a very interesting site.

Sadly, like all other theatres these Sunday shows have been cancelled. It means that these local scriptwriters and enthusiastic theatre students are without a theatre until this sad situation finishes – could easily be a whole semester.