Kid Stakes

‘Kid Stakes’ is the Hayman Theatre’s 3rd major production of the year. Kid Stakes is chronologically the 1st play in the Doll Trilogy by Australian playwright and actor, Ray Lawler. However, the 1st play written in 1950 was ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’ and this blockbuster put Australia on the international stage. Twenty years later, following its worldwide success, the Melbourne Theatre Company commissioned Lawler to write two prequels, ‘Kid Stakes’ and ‘Other Times’ which chart the meeting and subsequent love affair of the main characters, Olive and Roo.

Seventy years ago, Seventeenth Doll was considered amazing and daring, now sadly it is tired and the dialogue a bit clunky and lethargic. This prequel however is fresh, has a layered storyline and with dialogue that really hits the point. This is a fabulous play performed by and all about, five twenty-year-olds.

The season is very short, running only from Tuesday 26th July until Saturday 30th. This two and a half hour, fast moving, excellent production can be seen at 7.00 pm in the Hayman Theatre, Building 302, Curtin University, near Manning Road campus entrance, Bentley.

Booking is essential for this intimate theatre. Tickets are going quickly at Enquiries: contact Leigh – yes, he is still there after several decades – 9266-7026 or

The Scene:         1937. A smart house in Carlton, Melbourne. The long family room was painted white above the dado line and mustard yellow below. To the right was the glazed front door. The door wall was cutaway (superbly done with the brick work exposed) to allow the audience to see the front path and plants outside, along with any visitors arriving. Next to the front door was a hallstand with mirror and a hat rack.

In the centre of the rear wall was door leading to the kitchen. Alongside was a beautiful radiogram system in a wooden cabinet. To the left was a staircase up to the bedrooms. Against the left wall was a piano with a metal legged stool. A metal rimmed, gold glass vase on top of the piano awaited the first Kewpie doll. At the side was the laced curtained rear door that led to the back garden.

There was an oak table with bentwood chairs. An ivory rug and a smart wooden framed armchair with matching footstool. Near the piano was an upholstered, Victorian chaise longue.

Set design and builder:                   Stephen Carr, who was assisted by Setare Moqarabin and Louie Kendrick, has produced the best quality set at Curtin for some years. Immaculate.

Properties:          Supervised by Isabel Banu and assisted by Jarrad Whitehurst, Aoife McGonagle and Leo Rimmer have sourced some wonderful and unusual props. They are all good quality and of the correct era, not simply ‘that will do’.

Sound Designer and operator:    Macy Sharp has put a great deal of effort into making a soundscape and not simply a few isolated sound effects. A hose pipe in the back garden, a cuckoo calling at sunrise, a car arriving all subtly handled.

Lighting Designer:            Stephen Carr has fashioned some original ideas. Instead of going to black for scene changes, the stage lights are lowered by about 80% and the colour tones changed from the warm, incandescent lights of the era to a pale blue glow. The headlights of a car driving past panned realistically across the sitting room wall. This effect was a first for me.

Lighting Operator:           Simonne Matthews was on the ball with several lights being switched on and off. Never missed a beat.

Production Manager:     Stephen Carr has made what might have been a simple standard set and production, into the quality one demanded by this fine acting standard and the script.

Stage Manager:                Danika Bentley and deputy SM, Maia Jackson were assisted by Jarrad Whitehurst. The scene changes were precise, well planned as the stage staff moved in and out without the usual hovering.

It is 1937. Recently widowed, young attractive Emma Leech (Cait Griffiths) and her refined, but fun-loving daughter, Olive (Poppy Lindsell) live in a cosy home in Melbourne’s Carlton area. Despite the huge expansion of the city, Emma being a sole parent is finding her finances are difficult to manage. She takes in a lodger, one of Olive’s long-time friends, the wild and flirtatious Nancy Wells (Ella Waterman).

There is a knock at the front door. It is Dickie Pouncett (Tom Ford) who has known Olive most of his life and is madly in love with her. Although he has a secure job, is dapper and polite, he has not got that desirability factor.

One day whilst visiting the Aquarium, the two girls meet two ‘off season’ sugarcane cutters, Roo Webber (Angus Price) who has been brought up in a strict religious background and looks forward to a loving and secure future. Then there is his larrikin friend, Barney Ibbot (Jonathan Hoey) who wants to love life to the full.

The wild little girl next door, Bubba (not seen, but beautifully voiced by Maia Jackson)

Understudies are becoming more essential due to Covid, is Tully Jones is primed and waiting.

As always, Costume Designer Kiri Siva has completely captured the dresses and suits of the day. With her costume assistants, Brooklyn Thomas, Chiara Hadi and Lilian Tran the cast is beautifully dressed. The silk dressing gowns, black pleated skirts, with brass buttons. A three-piece suit for Barney fitted perfectly. Being a little pedantic, the bottom button of a waistcoat should not be fastened. Poor Dickie was resplendent but unsuccessful.

The director Helen Trenos was assisted by Benjamin Taylor. Helen has encouraged all the actors to have their own mannerisms, from Emma’s sour mouth and stern expression to Roo’s emotional, breakdown. The director has used the whole stage throughout the play, this heightens the excitement and action. Each character had their minute of fame, e.g., Nancy with her wild dance. Dickie had his prim way of sitting whilst Olive had her own bubbly and dreamy way of dealing with Roo. Roo and Nancy both had incredibly difficult short monologues.

This is a beautiful play about real people in a difficult era of Melbourne life. Highly recommended.