Following what can only be described as a tumultuous 2010, Deckchair Theatre bravely stepped up to the microphone Wednesday night and launched their performance program for 2011, entitled ‘A Season of Voyages’.

As expressed by Deckchair Theatre Board Chair Dorothy Wardale, City of Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, and Deckchair Theatre CEO and Artistic Director Chris Bendall, this year’s season is largely inspired by the company’s port-side location of Fremantle, and utilises a recurring motif of water and voyages, whether they be voyages of discovery, voyages into danger or a journey into the centre of human understanding and emotion.

First big ship out of the harbour is Damien Millar’s multi-award winning Australian play, The Modern International Dead. Originally scheduled for 2010, the show will finally commence its performance season next week. Based on countless verbatim interviews, The Modern International Dead is “witness theatre at its most potent”, and follows three everyday heroes, who risk their lives helping others in times of war. They aren’t soldiers however; they are humanitarians, weapons inspectors and counsellors. This should be a gripping and challenging night of theatre and an exciting way to launch Deckchair’s 2011 program.

Deckchair’s second core show is Lorelei, an original work being developed in collaboration between Chris Bendall and Mark Storen, who’s solo cabaret show Cut to the Quick featured at Deckchair as part of the 2010 Fremantle Festival. Described as “a mystery, a romance [and] a cabaret”, it pulls upon German mythology, and the music of Tom Waits, Cole Porter, Elvis Costello and Nina Simone, to tell the story of Lorelei and Buzzard, a performing duo who are travelling the world via cruise ship. When visiting Shanghai, Lorelei goes missing, and everything unravels.

To help whet our appetites even further, attendees were then treated to a delightful rendition of Jacques Brel’s song, Amsterdam by Lorelei performer, Rhoda Lopez. With its 1930s setting, eclectic soundtrack and European locations, this production could end up having a very Agatha Christie feel to it; sumptuous and exotic, full of numerous plot twists and turns. I would be very disappointed if either Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot didn’t make an appearance.

Their final major production for the year is Taking Liberty, the story of the victorious 1983 Australia’s Cup Defense yacht race by West Australian (WA) playwright Ingle Knight. Originally developed by Perth Theatre Company in 2008 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the event, Deckchair has cleverly scheduled their upcoming production to coincide with the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. With a stellar West Australian cast including Stuart Halusz and Sam Longley, this ‘unforgettable ride’ of a play should hopefully entertain both Deckchair regulars and visiting sailors alike. 

Through their Umbrella Program, Deckchair Theatre will also be staging a variety of smaller shows. These include relationship-drama, In The Garden, a world-premiere co-production with Hook In Eye Theatre Productions, scripted by emerging playwright Anna Houston, and The Turtle and the Tradewinds, a dance and puppetry family show presented with Sandpiper Productions. Fresh from the 2010 Fremantle Festival and back by popular demand, Deckchair will also remount Rhapsody in Red and Mark Storen’s Cut to the Quick for two nights only.

With cabaret, puppetry, human dramas and challenging political pieces, Deckchair has shaped a diverse and fascinating year of theatre. In striving to include “something for everyone”, Bendall’s program seems to build upon its existing audience (The Modern International Dead, Cut to the Quick), as well as creating the new audiences Deckchair so desperately needs by staging wider variety of new work and the utilising artists and companies with in-built audiences of their own (In The Garden, The Turtle and the Tradewinds). The company’s commitment to their West Australian location, resources and the stories that inspires is to be commended, and hopefully with a calm sea and this strong program at their back, 2011 will be a smoother journey for Deckchair Theatre overall.

Bon Voyage.


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