Sydney
22 April 2001

On top of the world

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Quo vadis adoption? The search goes on …

Editorial: Abortion is forever too

Letters: Injustice and poverty

One Nation spectre gave birth to Unity: Dr Peter Wong MLC

Reflection: On the future of Anzac Day

Titanic mystery shares stage with classics

Wrapping up basic education

Celebrating women and family

22 Apr 01

Titanic mystery shares stage with classics



Patrons outside 420 Kent Street





By Dan McAloon



Some things old and some things new, but nothing borrowed – and definitely nothing blue. That’s the recipe for dramatic success that has been planned for the Genesian Theatre Company’s 2001-02 subscription season.

Lovers of literary classics will find their tastes catered for with original adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, plus productions of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.

And those who fancy works with more modern stories also appear to have had their prayers answered.

The Shoe-Horn Sonata, which opens the season on May 19, and Scotland Road, the third work in the program (September-October), both deal with important events of the 20th century.

In Scotland Road, by Jeffrey Hatcher, we are taken into the human tragedy that unfolds in steerage class on the night of the sinking of the Titanic.

The theme is closer to home in The Shoe-Horn Sonata, by Australian playwright John Misto, who has used the poignant recollections of Australian women held in a Japanese POW camp to tell a powerful story of courage, faith and forgiveness.

The productions of Mansfield Park and A Tale of Two Cities will be world premiere seasons.

Pamela Whalan, the Genesian’s artistic director, says costume drama is always popular with audiences.

Pamela, an expert on the novels of Jane Austen, will direct her own adaptation of Mansfield Park, even though the challenge of presenting a stately mansion on the pocket-sized Genesian stage is formidable. “There is absolutely no backstage area, so the whole design must be suggestive of size with painted perspectives and doorways that seem to lead to another place, but actually don’t,” she says.

Anyone who saw her adaptation of Austen’s Emma at the Genesian last year knows the illusion of grandeur can work well on the small stage when the script is tight and the acting good.

Good acting and high production values have always been a hallmark of the Genesian Theatre Company, which was formed on August 24, 1944, by members of the Catholic Debating and Social Union who for some years had organised an annual one-act play competition staged at the Independent Theatre and other venues.

The August date was providential. It was the eve of the feast of St Genesius, patron saint of actors, who is said to have been martyred under Diocletian in 303AD.

The Genesians’ first play The Comedian, by Henri Gheon, recounted the story of Genesius as a pagan actor who converts to Christianity at a time of great persecution and dies a believer. This maiden production – in January 1945 – won favourable reviews for the Genesians in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Catholic Weekly.

Pamela Whalan, a member since 1962, says the attract-ion of live theatre is timeless as it communicates to the human spirit with an immediacy that no other art form can achieve.

The pay-off, she says, is measured in the exit comments of patrons.

“You see them engaging in a shared experience with people who were strangers before the play began,” she says. “In an age when human values are in danger of being swept aside by economic rationalism or technological advance it’s worth the struggle to maintain an art form which enhances the dignity and stature of humanity.”

As part of its lease agreement with the Sydney Archdiocese, the company does not stage plays that are inconsistent with the Church’s moral teaching.

This may be seen as a limitation, says Pamela, but it also reflects the company’s charter of presenting uplifting and inspirational work.

“It makes you think more carefully about the message of a play and question the reasons why we want to present it,” she said.