‘Next’ is a collection of three short plays from young local playwright, Scott McArdle. Almost two years ago, Scott’s play ‘Laika’ became the hit of the year at The Blue Room in Northbridge. Laika was presented as a radio play, complete with live on-stage sound effects, the first play in this trio is also a radio play.
Scott has directed all three of these beautifully constructed dark plays.
This triptych was presented by NEXT Productions and Second Chance Theatre in two of the venues within Studio 411 in the grounds of Murdoch University. The shows ran from 7.00 until 9.30 for three nights, Thursday until Saturday 22nd June.
The lighting design was by Scott McArdle, installed by Harry Mitchell, Rosie Jones, Jacob Murphy and operated by Georgia Smith.
‘The Room Downstairs’ is based on the true and tragic story of 46 yrs. old Michelle McNamara, a crime reporter and loving mother, who was determined to trace and name the murdering rapist known as the Golden State Killer. Michelle was found dead due to ‘an accidental drug overdose’ – or was it administered? Here the story is presented as a podcast on stage.
The rehearsal studio was the venue of the first of the plays. A metre-high dais with a 4-metre long desk overlooked the large floor area in front of the audience. The floor had three, stand microphones. The desk included the sound equipment, two microphones and a myriad of ingenious pieces of equipment for creating the one hundred sound effects required for this chilling play.
The highly realistic Foley sound effects and vocals were designed by Aiden Willoughby, then Tristan McInnes led the talented team of Jacob Murphy, Rosie Jones and Xarna Rappold in their creation.
Playing the narrator was Cassie Power.
There is an incessant ringing of the doorbell. A young girl (Sarah Papadoulis) goes to the door. A man (Harry Mitchell) asks if she has a spare key for his relative’s flat – she lies that she hasn’t. A couple of days later the girl enters the lady next door’s flat and finds her neighbour dead.
After a 15-minute break the audience moved to the main Studio for the second play.
‘Chicken Rock’ was the most southerly lighthouse on the Isle of Man – an island between England and Ireland that is only twenty-five times the area of Rottnest yet has a population of 85,000. In 1960 this lighthouse mysteriously burned down. The Isle of Man has centuries of wonderful strange tales. This story was developed through Barking Gecko Theatre Company and ATYP, a group that help young playwrights achieve their full capacity.
Lighthouse keepers, or ‘Wickies’, are renowned for being superstitious about sea creatures along with who and what is allowed within the lighthouse itself. These delusions and long periods of isolation have led to stories like ‘The Selkies’.
The set designer Sam Knox has created the interior of a lighthouse, with the outer ‘shell’ missing. A curved staircase led up to a sleeping area and then further up to the light’s lens room, with an open external balcony around the top.
At floor level was a simple kitchen, a small sleeping area, a table and chairs and the front door leading out to the rocks. The set was very impressive and solidly constructed by Andrew David. There were many unusual props.
The haunting sound design by Isaac Diamond was crisp and chilling. The play was smoothly stage managed by Cassie Power.
This is the story of a rugged lighthouse keeper (Laughton McKenzie) who loathes visitors interrupting his isolation. Even when his orphaned niece (Rosie Jones) arrives unannounced he asks her to leave. Only when the girl informs him that their old aunt has died does he allow her to stay – for one night only. As they sleep, we meet the thing in the attic (Cassie Power).
After another 15-minute break, back to the rehearsal studio for the audience of 80.
‘Hail Satan!’ The final play of the trio takes place in a roller-skating rink. The sound design by Aiden Willoughby includes the typical powerful rock for the skaters, to the slow poignant melody for the final scene.
Choreography and skating movements were cleverly devised by Shannon Rogers. Fun costume design by Sophie Braham. The play was stage managed by Xarna Rappold.
After the death of their best friend and in an attempt to come to terms with their inner suffering, a group of teenage friends gather at the local roller-skating rink for an unusual but appropriate memorial service and wake.
Starring Ella Ewart, Sarah Papadoulis, Jacob Murphy, Harry Mitchell and Róisín Kelley
Very often a short play means that a writer has an idea but cannot be bothered to develop it. Scott McArdle has been writing short plays for a few years now and he has never let his audience down once. Here we have three chilling but very different fast-moving plays, all with a novel twist.
Some directors pick their friends for their short plays, irrespective of their acting skills. As a director it is imperative that you chose the BEST available, it is not fair to you – the director or writer – or the actors if the show is mediocre. Scott has selected an amazing team with so much talent! Everyone did Scott and themselves proud.
Many of the local radio stations have a morning serial, which are quite good, but often they are even 60 years old. If someone comes up with a series like these, I am sure the demand will be there.