“W;t”

by Margaret Edson

Dec. 5-8, 2018, Noosa Arts Theatre.

Specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Vivian Bearing is a brilliant & uncompromising professor of literature facing her greatest challenge yet: a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. She is not happy about this. Still, she agrees to undergo an experimental treatment as research for the future of oncology, with no guarantee for her. Once the teacher, Professor Bearing is now the student, learning more than she ever wanted to know—about sickness and regret, about human kindness and medical progress, and of course, about that which she has studied so fastidiously in the teaching of Donne’s work, “Death, be not proud.”

“W;T” is a humorous and poignant look at the journey we’re all on, about what it means to face the issues of life, purpose and death while discovering beautiful poetry and compassion along the way.

Alison Chambers
as Vivian Bearing, PhD
Ian Mackellar
as Harvey Kelekian, MD
Brittany Morel
as Susie Monohan, RN

Brittany is a 2015 WAAPA graduate, calls Canberra and Singapore her home town(s), and has recently performed in productions of "All My Sons" and "Pride and Prejudice." When not on the stage, Brittany welcomes work as a stable hand; she loves horses and is happy to shovel.

Jasper Garner Gore
as Jason Posner, MD

Born in St. Kilda, Victoria, Jasper is now based in Sydney where he works as an actor/writer. He has recently performed in "Hell Hole", "A Christmas Carol", "Monopoly" and "The Chapel Perilous".

Joanna Moore Smith
as Prof. Ashford

We are pleased to announce that veteran theatre and television actor, Joanna Moore Smith, has agreed to come out of retirement to play the role of Professor E.M Ashford in "W;t"! Joanna trained at the Royal Central School of Drama in London where she also spent four years in repertory work. She has performed on stages across Australia and in a variety of television shows, and now lives in Noosa.

Jeffrey S. Miller
Director

Boston-based director, an award winning professor of theatre arts and director of shows in NYC, San Diego and St. Paul, will be making his first trip to Oz to direct "W;t"! 
Fresh off of directing a new musical in Minnesota and "Freud's Last Session" in Boston, Jeff brings extraordinary vision, insight and talent to every show he directs. We're so thrilled and honoured that he and his wife Mary will be joining our production

Dr. Kirsty Beilharz
Director of Sound

Music and sound matter in making great theatre. 
That's why we are excited and honoured to announce that Dr. Kirsty Beilharz—composer, researcher, musician, scholar on palliative care and all round great human—has agreed to direct the sound for our production of "W;t" with an original score! 

Rebecca Lang
Stage Manager

A great theatre experience never just happens; if you don't have the right Stage Manager behind the scenes, well, trust us on this. That's why we're SO grateful that Rebecca Lang has agreed to be our Stage Manager for "W;t"! 
Bec is from Wollongong, graduated with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art (Theatre Practice) from Excelsior College in Sydney, and most recently has stage managed "A Doll's House" for Bard on the Beach, "Alison's House" at the Depot Theatre, and Clock&Spiel's moved reading of "Hell Hole" by Jo Kadlecek.

Alex Chalwell
as an ensemble member

Fresh off a tour with Bell Shakespeare Players, Alex Chalwell joins the cast of "W;t" as an ensemble member. Not only does Alex bring a range of experience, jokes, accents, dance moves and training to the demands of his many roles in "W;t", but he clowns around a bit with the Starlight Foundation.

Imogen Morgan
Technician/Student/ Resident
Good theatre is a pleasure to watch. Great theatre is a pleasure and a privilege to watch. Good theatre is being theatrically entertained. Great theatre is being theatrically entertained and intellectually fulfilled. Joining the Dots Theatre’s production of “W;t” is a great piece of theatre.
 
The script by Margaret Edson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. So its credentials are self-explanatory. The play follows the journey of an academic’s battle with ovarian cancer. Her entire life has been the study of the great British metaphysical poet, Sir John Donne. His words, wisdom and wit have nourished and fulfilled her and continue to do so as the cancer grows and spreads. Her passion for the poet is undeniable. Her journey is beautifully mirrored by the academics of science and medicine who surround her. They are just as passionate in their own way.
 
In lesser hands this play about a woman’s journey with terminal cancer could have been both long and maudlin. It was neither. It was, in fact, alive, richly human, absorbing, humorous, real and fascinating. It was the triumph of what happens when the sum of all parts of a theatre production are all of the highest order. I’m at a bit of a loss to find the right words to laud praise upon the production because the right words “Amazing”, “Awesome” and “Brilliant” have been so overused of late they have lost their impact. So? I’ll choose to describe it as “Stunning”, “Aesthetic” and “Complete”.
 
Great direction is something that should seem seamless. You should be totally unaware of it. Jeffrey Miller has achieved this. Believe me, nothing was left to chance. Every moment had been out-thought and presented with seamless intelligent design. I totally appreciated the dedication and intelligence underpinning this play. Thank you, Mr Miller; yours is professional work of the highest order.
 
I am a massive fan of good ensemble work and “W;t” is a great ensemble piece. However, it is almost a one woman show within the ensemble. Alison Chambers as Vivian Bearing, PhD, gives a master class in characterisation and performing skills— balanced and beautiful, earthy and almost whimsical. It would have been so easy, especially for an actress of a lower calibre, to have gone over-the-top and wrung out the drama to the point of melodrama. I really appreciated Ms Chambers’ ability to keep it real and yet still captivate and engage us.
 
The rest of the cast/ensemble were uniformly strong. Ian Mackellar (as Dr Kelekian and Mr Bearing) turned in his best performance to date and kept it very “real”. Brittany Morel (as Nurse Susie Monahan) and Jasper Garner-Gore (as Dr Posner) showed why the future of performance art in Australia is in such great shape. And finally Joanna Moore-Smith (as Dr Ashford) rounded everything off with two polished cameos as the academics’ academic.
 
The set was a glowing example of simplicity but totally effective. Basically a series of hospital screens and a bed were wheeled effortlessly around stage to create the scenes with minimum fuss and yielding maximum results. One of the many things a young performer can learn from this production is witnessing these effortless scene changes. They worked so well because they had been well rehearsed.
 
This is the first outing for newly formed company, Joining the Dots Theatre. Hopefully it will not be the last and they grace the Noosa stage with their offerings. And I really hope that this is not the only outing for this production. It deserves to be seen. It is the sort of show that could be performed anywhere and still achieve the same result. Congratulations to all concerned.
Finally, to the theatre community (both practitioners and audience members): Go See This Show!!! It has a limited run at the Noosa Arts Theatre (5-8 Dec.) but if I can manage the 200k return trip from Maleny on a cold and wet Wednesday night, I am sure you can find time as well. Come and see what “Amazing, Awesome and Brilliant” really look like.
 
Simon’s postscript: I did have a few problems with the evening. But these were about the venue rather than the production. The small but intimate stage area at Noosa Arts can cramp productions very easily. I felt that this was the bare minimum size stage for this production. Quite a few times the stage was looking a tad too full. This again was reflected with the size of the cast. It seemed crowded. The sound was also a tad too loud and was starting to drown out the human voice on stage. I’m sure this is the sort of thing you discover on your opening night in any new venue. I really hope it’s a successful season as “W;t” needs to be seen. Incidentally, I am terrified, for obvious reasons, that I have used commas correctly in this review.
Simon Denver

Playwright & Sunshine Coast Theatre critic, Dec 5th 2018

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