on our selection

‘On Our Selection’, a play based on a collection of ‘Dad and Dave’ stories.

‘Dad and Dave’ comes filled with Steele Rudd’s granddad-joke humour and honourable social messages. They are short stories about life in Queensland’s Darling Downs. With the help of his friend, Beaumont Smith, Rudd tried to adapt his stories for the stage; however, the result was poor, and so this work of ‘On Our Selection’ was developed by Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan, and still are based on the 1912 stories about Aussie battlers. With Steele Rudd having twelve siblings, he knew precisely what ‘battlers’ were all about.

Steele Rudd was the pseudonym of tall, ruddy faced, Arthur Hoey Davis (14 November 1868 – 11 October 1935). By the age of 21 he was writing articles for a rowing magazine – his pseudonym was later abbreviated from ‘Rudder’ to Rudd. On the 150th Anniversary of Queensland, despite Davis having been the son of a convict Welsh miner, he was named one of the 150 most influential Queenslanders.

A film was made in 1932. The stage show was revived in 1979 and starred Geoffrey Rush as Dave, along with and Mel Gibson and Noni Hazlehurst. Another film followed in 1995, again with Geoffrey Rush, who was joined by Joan Sutherland and Leo McKern. Essie Davis of ‘Miss Fisher Mysteries’ starred as Kate.

This light-hearted fun evening is being presented by ARENAarts at The Roxy Lane Theatre on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Roxy Lane, Maylands. ‘On Our Selection’ plays have curtain up at 8.00 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until Saturday the 30th March. There is a matinée on Sunday 24th at 2.00 pm.

The scene: A small Queensland land holding in 1912, after years of drought. There are four Acts.

Despite no funds, the impressive sets were designed and constructed by Jim Chantry with Don Weaver. The rear wall was a 6-metre rundown farmhouse veranda. To everyone’s amazement, on the small dimmed stage, this was rotated by brute strength through 180 degrees in one piece, to show the farmhouse interior complete with a glowing fire in a brick fireplace. Great work.

There were three scenic flats in each wing, artistically painted with outback scorched earth scenes. A new outhouse was added later. A huge amount of work ensured it was superbly fitted out with wash tub, and rustic furniture. Being in a new venue with minimal resources, the production team of Christine Ellis and Charlotte Weber did very well to get everything drawn together. The Stage manager was Marina Delborello who was aided by Sheree Barber. They are to be congratulated on their collection of antiques and period props.

The lighting and sound tech was Eric McGrechan – if any one has any lamps to spare, I know this enthusiastic company would be most grateful. Good job with available electronics.

Simon James’ ‘in house’ programme was well-designed and easy to read. He has wisely included details of the group’s programmes for a full year ahead; this captures the audience for future shows. It is surprising how few theatres go further than the next show.

Dad Rudd (Jim Chantry) and his loving wife, Mum Rudd (Julie Holmshaw) are a family of pioneer subsistence farmers, in yet another year of drought. With years of inbreeding, their children are varied in talents. The elder daughter, attractive and intelligent Kate (Keri Neale) helps run the homestead. Then there is Dave (Garry Davies) a few sheaves short of a haystack, and his equally dim brother, Joe Rudd (Blake Hughes).
As Joe and a farmhand, Cranky Jack (Mike Moshos) are sawing logs, the haughty and heartless neighbour, John Carey (Tim Mitchell) calls around to collect a dubious debt, so has brought with him the Bailiff (Christine Ellis). Poor Dad has nothing, and so more of his stock is seized as compensation. Cranky Jack regularly tends to go off in a daydream and imagines strange happenings in the woods.
When the Reverend Mr Macpherson (Jeremy Darling) calls around, panic arises, there is no food in the house. The mad Irishman with a dry sense of humour, Maloney (Don Weaver) has a few suggestions, but as he is seldom sober, no one listens. Dad’s brother, ‘Uncle’ (Jeremy Darling) works hard – when pushed – but has an aversion to soap and water.
Kate is endlessly stalked by Carey’s hot-blooded, creepy son Jim (Jay Overington), but handsome Sandy (Rob Jackson) always seems in the background. When the wealthy, Mrs White (Lis Hoffmann) and her alluring daughter Lily (Federica Longo) move to the area, Dave fancies his chances.
                The youngest daughter, Sara (Jade Woodhouse) is full of teenage hormones and is desperately in love with dim Billy Bearup (Jay Overington), a slow but caring romantic who struggles to reciprocate.
                Can this loving family with a fighting spirit ever find an answer to their poverty?

Keri Neal oversaw the costumes, and she was assisted by Christine Ellis. All the costumes were correct for the 1912 era, great work.

This a large cast, and as with most ARENAarts productions, the producers like to give newcomers a chance and so the acting was a little variable. Director Peter Nettleton was named best director at the 2013 Hills Festival of Theatre and Dramafest for his inspired production of Ionesco’s absurdist work, ‘The Bald Prima Donna’. Peter then returned to acting with the Graduate Dramatic Society, the Blue Room and Garrick Theatres.

Director Peter and his assistant Lis Hoffmann had the cast well trained, word perfect, good movement and prompt with entrances. A newcomer that I thought showed particular promise, was Jade Woodhouse as Sara.

The two-hour play was a very pleasant, easy-going night out, with a clear and moving view of life in the bush one hundred years ago.