(l-r) Tom Watson and Sam Floyd. Photo - Ross Gould
‘Where play meets sketch’ is how Freshly Ground Theatre creator Sam Floyd describes the company’s latest offering, Every Base Covered. He might have added hand crafted, heartfelt and seriously entertaining.
Freshly Ground Theatre, founded by the 21 year-old Floyd with friend Remy Coll in early 2008, began life as a vehicle for A Fair Arrangement – Floyd’s tale of two couples having affairs with each other’s partners. ‘It was a comedy, but it had a serious edge to it,’ says Floyd. ‘It’s those sort of serious themes you need to write comedy about.’
Learning from his experiences in promoting and staging A Fair Arrangement, Floyd again decided to sink his savings into Every Base Covered, which runs until May 30th at the Gorman House QL2 Theatre. Floyd, currently studying screenwriting at the Australian Film and Television Radio School part time, admits opening night felt ‘shaky’, but says that ‘by the end of the week, the show was really taking shape. I’m feeling really good about this coming week.’
Every Base Covered collects Floyd’s prize-winning pieces and mixes them with new material created especially for the nine-part performance. The Disclaimer, which took out Best Production, Original Script, Actor and Supporting Actor in the 2008 Canberra One Act Play Festival, forms the production’s centrepiece, taking a wry look at the absurdities of litigation.
Like many of the other pieces, The Disclaimer takes a simple idea and, without overplaying its hand, stretches it into surprising territory. Whether Floyd and his gang are escaping a murder scene or singing ditties about buying guitars, they are always engaging and clearly love their short stints in the spotlight.
While Every Base Covered touches on a wide range of subjects, a well-defined sense of tone holds the production together. Floyd’s writing style is more than a little bit Tim Minchin – waiting for the punch line is half the fun, and there are plenty of sharp observations to keep your mind ticking over in the meantime.
Floyd is lucky enough to have attracted a strong cast to help stage his work. Freshly Ground Theatre co-founder Remy Coll plays his forlorn roles with a clear sense of fun, while Freya Ovington delights in her smart, sometimes haughty characters. Sal Bensley and Tom Watson stand out amongst the small cast as young actors to watch, both more than able to carry their scenes and often in danger of stealing them.
When asked about the challenges he faces heading an emerging theatre company, Floyd points less to funding and more to the issue of the ‘amateur theatre’ tag. ‘Credibility is a big thing you have to build,’ he explains. ‘I feel we have a really good product, the show is very strong, and we’ve got a very good team. It’s about building a reputation.’
Unsurprisingly for a writer of short plays, Floyd is a strong believer in getting a message across quickly: ‘If you lose your audience, or make them bored, its hard to get them back. I think a lot of people strive for length because they think they should, but I think you need a strong reason to do two acts. I like things that are about an hour long.’
‘I really want to create something that is genuinely funny and entertaining,’ Floyd emphasises. ‘But I’m also aiming for theatre that’s thought provoking – I like everything to have a point to it and not just be funny.’ He also brings up simplicity and accessibility as key ingredients to sustainable theatre.
Floyd’s latest project is currently under consideration by the Made in Canberra program – backing that would see it staged at Canberra’s Street Theatre. Whatever the result, it seems certain we won’t have to wait long before Freshly Ground Theatre serves up another tasty morsel.
Every Base Covered by Sam Floyd plays until May 30, Gorman House, Canberra. Visit: www.freshlygroundtheatre.com