Everyman Theatre's Do Not Go Gentle, the story so far...

Posted on: 23 Aug 2017

This September, our tenants (and one of the founding organisations of Chapter) Everyman Theatre, present Do Not Go Gentle in the Seligman Theatre, a co-production with The Drill Hall Theatre Company from Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia. Here, Everyman's Kathy Thomas tells the first part of the story of how this exciting production came to be.

1. To Begin at the Beginning

March 2015 - Mullumbimby, NSW:

The grandchildren in school and their parents at work, what could Kathy and Ray Thomas do with their ‘free’ time? The Drill Hall Theatre looked interesting. They called in - and met Greg Aitken.

It had soon been agreed that Ray would direct six performances of “From Laugharne to Mullumbimby” - the life story of Dylan Thomas told through his stories, letters, poems and broadcasts. And what better way to celebrate the success of this venture than with a few schooners of Aussie beer in the Middle Pub? Here, Kathy proposed a co-production between Everyman and The Drill Hall Theatre Company - and the seeds were sown.

Where is Mullumbimby? Fifteen miles inland from the most easterly point of Australia, Byron Bay - God’s pocket. Where is Everyman based? Cardiff. Only 10,500 miles would separate the companies then. No problem!

2. One Year Later …

November 2015 to April 2016 saw read-throughs and auditions in Chapter. Then the crunch question: “If you are cast in this play, are you willing to pay for your fare to Australia?” A big ask, but sufficient “Yesses” to get the project underway. Then endless hours completing funding application forms, writing letters and making phone calls. 

There were many encouraging responses - “An international exchange - how ambitious,” “An ageing cast - how positive,”  “Looking to change attitudes - how creative.”

But no money. So we embarked on our own programme of fund-raising. To date we have raised over £1300. One organisation was particularly supportive, however: CHAPTER - our Creative Partner. Thankyou!

3. Which play?

From his first reading of ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ Ray realised this play was something special. And each re-reading brought new levels of meaning into focus. Written by Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius, it places an uncompromising metaphor on stage – that of a long, ultimately fatal trek to the South Pole – as a means of exploring and expanding our experience of the ageing process.

Commissioned and directed by Julian Meyrick, Strategic Professor of Creative Arts at Flinders University in Adelaide, the first, and only, professional production of the play took place in Melbourne in 2010 - exactly 100 years after the Terra Nova left Cardiff’s Roath Dock on Scott’s ill-fated expedition.

Borrowing its title from Dylan Thomas’s poem to his dying father, this had to be the play for a joint Australian/Welsh production. It was meant to be. The question was - How could it be staged?

With support from The British Council, Ruth Stringer, professional set designer, came on board - and some interesting possibilities began to emerge.

4. Casting

Nineteen members of Everyman were auditioned. Choosing nine was no easy task, but by March 2016 a full cast was in place. Then a visit to Australia to audition for nine people to become The Drill Hall Theatre Company cast - an equally challenging process.

Finally, the agonisingly difficult task of choosing 4 members of the Everyman cast and 5 members of The Drill Hall cast to become the Tour Cast - 10 people in all (Ray being from Everyman) who would embark on this theatrical exchange spanning the world.

Click here to read part 2...

Everyman Theatre: Do Not Go Gentle part 1

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