A TENNESSEE Williams play lost for 60 years will make its Australian premiere at the Last Drop Canning Vale.
Presented by Life on Hold Productions and directed by Sarah Christiner, Not About Nightingales is based on the true story of a prison scandal that shocked the US in the mid-1930s.
Inmates went on a hunger strike due to poor conditions and were locked in steam-heated cells as punishment.
The focus is on the politics of prison life, told through a love story, compelling dialogue, power-corrupted officials and the human condition.
Playwright Williams is most famous for A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie, among his more than 100 plays.
Originally written in 1938, the first performance of Not About Nightingales wasn’t until 1998 in London after actress Vanessa Redgrave tracked it down.
It moved to Broadway a year later and picked up six Tony Awards, including best play.
“The play is episodic and bounces between locations in the prison with each scene announced as if it was a newspaper article,” Christiner said.
“It’s not a happy story but I believe it ends with hope – it’s open to interpretation what happens to the characters at the end.
“Conclusions are not certain and that’s something I really enjoy about the text.”
The main challenges, according to Christiner, are some of the surreal scenes in the show.
“They’re not like anything I’ve worked with before and I particularly wanted to do them justice,” she said.
“This has involved some musical direction and choreography to draw the audience into the prison space and life, actively bringing them in what’s going on.
“Not About Nightingales was Tennessee Williams’ first full-length play and it doesn’t have the mature editing of his more well-known later works.
“Working with the script to create a production that wasn’t too long, but also didn’t omit anything quintessentially Williams or relevant to the main storyline, was a challenge.”
Involved in theatre since 2003, Christiner has performed in a plethora of productions and has also done extensive tech work and stage-managing, recently extending her love of the performing arts to directing and setting up Life on Hold Productions.
In 2018, her company debuted with a production of A Clockwork Orange, followed by Animal Farm and The Other Side last year.
“I was stuck for inspiration on what show to produce in 2020 so I went to the State Library and randomly selected several plays to read,” Christiner said.
“Tennessee Williams is one of my favourite playwrights and I hadn’t heard of Not About Nightingales before.
“It had the classic Williams lyricism and interplay of realistic action with surrealist scenes but it was so much more visceral and violent than usual.
“The idea of trying to bring this prison experience, based on real events, to life excited me and offered new creative opportunities.”
Tennessee Williams’ Not About Nightingales plays at 7.30pm September 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 26. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at www.TAZTix.com.au or call TAZTix on 9255 3336.
The Last Drop Canning Vale is at 507 Nicholson Road.