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Moby Dick, Widow's Peak and Under The Rainbow at Old Mill Theatre

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Whale of a time as theatre brings Moby Dick to stage
Moby Dick, Widow's Peak, Under The Rainbow, Old Mill Theatre, short plays, comedy, performing arts, Herman Melville, Noel O'Neill, coarse acting
Moby Dick at the Old Mill Theatre features a seaman (Kit Leake, left), Queegueg (Josh Harris) and Ishmael (David Heder).

What happens when you take a classic 685-page novel about a large aquatic mammal and try to encapsulate it in a 25-minute play? The answer lies in Moby Dick, adapted by Michael Green from the original Herman Melville tale, and directed by Sarah Christiner as part of the Old Mill Theatre's short play season this September.

It's the epic story of a man's obsession with vengeance against a mammoth sperm whale which previously had destroyed his ship. But the telling is a little different Green is a pioneer of a theatrical style known as "coarse acting" which is a spoof of things in theatre going wrong.

"Effectively, it's very bad theatre taken very seriously," Sarah, who also plays the scarred seamen, said. "Green's Moby Dick script, while being fraught with theatrical faux pas, actually does manage to capture the essential moments and message of Melville's saga.

"The cast is comprised of people who have mostly all worked together before and I knew I could trust them to help with the collaborative process of staging this somewhat intricate production. This is also the first time I have directed and performed in a show."

Moby Dick, Widow's Peak, Under The Rainbow, Old Mill Theatre, short plays, comedy, performing arts, Herman Melville, Noel O'Neill, coarse acting
Sarah Christiner, left, Kit Leake, David Heder and Josh Harris are appearing in a comedy version of Moby Dick.

Involved in theatre since 2003, Sarah has performed in a plethora of productions and has also done extensive tech work and stage-managing, also recently extending her love of the performing arts to directing. "My last two directorial efforts, Flowers for Algernon and Lord of the Flies, have both been fairly intense in their own ways and I wanted my next show to be more light-hearted," Sarah said.

"Coarse acting appeals to my sense of irony because it's depiction of theatre at its least tidy while I'm rather a perfectionist. Green's adaptation is also the only Moby Dick script I have really enjoyed."

Moby Dick, Widow's Peak, Under The Rainbow, Old Mill Theatre, short plays, comedy, performing arts, Herman Melville, Noel O'Neill, coarse acting
Chris Thomas pays Captain Ahab in Moby Dick at the Old Mill Theatre.

Chris Thomas plays Captain Ahab, who is obsessed with gaining revenge on Moby Dick by destroying him. "The captain lost his leg to Moby Dick, which has resulted in him hobbling around on a wooden leg," he said. "As this is a parody version where everything goes wrong, the false leg is of course too short, which leads to all sorts of stage disasters.

"In terms of characterisation, I have the sea captain from The Simpsons in my mind when playing this role. The main challenge is to be good at doing bad acting it's not about playing it for laughs, it's about how you keep on going when everything else is going wrong.

"Moby Dick appealed because it's an actor's play we've all had those terrible moments when something has gone wrong and you desperately try to carry on," he said. "This is all those moments occurring in the same play, creating the ultimate the exaggeration of theatre gone wrong."

Moby Dick, Widow's Peak, Under The Rainbow, Old Mill Theatre, short plays, comedy, performing arts, Herman Melville, Noel O'Neill, coarse acting
Queegueg (Josh Harris, left), Ishmael (David Heder), Captain Ahab (Chris Thomas) and Moby Dick, seated.

Joining Moby Dick for the Old Mill Theatre's season of short plays are Widow's Peak and Under The Rainbow, both written and directed by Noel O'Neill. Widow's Peak is a poignant story of survival by the wives left behind when their husbands are killed during war and how they show determination through dark humour. Under The Rainbow looks at what might happen if there was no hope nor courage and the Wizard of Oz and his crew were nobodies hiding in a forgotten bar beneath the multi-coloured arch.

Moby Dick, Widow's Peak and Under The Rainbow play at 8pm September 7, 8, 9 and 10. All tickets are $20 book on 9367 8719 or email oldmilltheatre@iinet.net.au. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).
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Why? It's a chance to get three bite-sized chunks of theatre with comedy and drama and a play where everything goes wrong an artistic tasting plate, if you will.
When: 8pm September 7, 8, 9, 10
Phone: 93678719
Where: Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth
Cost: $20
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