A Fortunate Life, a theatre event unlike any I’ve ever experienced, thrilled and delighted my husband John and me. Guessing from the way the rest of the audience looked and sounded as we left the theatre, we were not alone.
The show runs until 4 March in the Ace Cinemas, Midland. You can check the details here. Such a treat for people of all ages on a long weekend if you live in Perth!
Adapted from the autobiography of A.B. Facey, this stage production provides a social history of Western Australia in the twentieth century.
In this adaptation, the story comes to life through what the blurb describes as
‘immersive audiovisual projections and live actors evoking the pioneering spirit of the bush, and the challenges and triumphs of country life through two world wars and their aftermath’.
I’ve had several attempts at writing this blog like a proper, sensible theatre review but that won’t work! How can I describe magic in a sensible review? Instead, let me try to describe my experience.
Spellbound from the beginning of A Fortunate Life
First came what could be described as the overture, or perhaps the prologue. Promise of what would unfold and the beginning of immersion.
Bird song. Lyrical, beautiful, thoroughly Australian music of birds filled the theatre.
At the same time, images of the Australian bush in all its beauty, splendour and excitement filled the large screen. The projections faded softly, then renewed themselves. Gum blossoms. Catkins. Massive trees. More blossoms. Paddocks and rivers and the outback. Flowers and bark. Everything I love about the bush.
I felt my breathing become slower, deeper, as I relaxed into my seat. I wanted more of the experience.
Stage and props
A simple platform stage set up in front of the screen in this ordinary cinema in suburban Perth at first held little mystery. Simple sparse props had been placed randomly. Large slatted pine crates. A washing basket. A milking stool. Some fabric.
Who could imagine how skilfully the actors would transform such simple props into so many different objects. The crates became chairs, beds, train seats and horses, as well as the edge of a deep well.
The fabric would become costumes of an amazing variety, as well as a swaddled baby and a patchwork quilt to warm a dying woman.
The actors and their skills
Two men and a woman ascended the stage from steps from the auditorium and the play began. Congratulations to actors Michael Abercromby, Benj D’Addario and Rebecca Davis for wonderful performances.
Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life covers his whole life-span, with a myriad of people involved, as you can imagine.
The three actors in the play transformed themselves into a variety of characters. At first I tried to keep a tally of those who peopled the story. In the end, it didn’t matter.
Character changes came swift and frequent, each wholly believable and convincing.
A white apron, a straw hat and a pronounced stoop – and there was Albert’s grandmother in place of a brash young man.
A pair of spectacles, some knitting and a patchwork quilt, and Albert’s aged wife appeared where, minutes earlier, I could have sworn I saw the young Albert.
Visual projections create background
Moving images projected onto the screen throughout the performance created scenes of beauty, terror and, at times, humour. Images melded into one another.
The beauty of the bush as a refrain. The horrors of war. the terror of the walls of a collapsing well. The romance of a young couple meeting and falling in love. The loss of a much loved sister fading into the bush.
As well, there were scenes depicting cartoon animals as life on a farm, a station and an outback track unfolded.
Albert made several journeys by sea. The ocean projected behind the action, and the actors miming the rolling of a ship made his seasickness appear both real and horrific.
This innovative and moving production is a credit to all involved.
The play was written by Jenny Davis and Stuart Halusz. Stuart also directed it. Audiovisuals were designed by Green Man Media and the sound was designed by Ben Collins.
The event marks the first presentation by Theatre 180 and Cinemastage. Theatre 180 has grown from twenty-seven years’ experience of Agelink Theatre. Their motto is, ‘Great stories, well told’.
A Fortunate Life country tour
A Fortunate Life will tour country venues in March. It can be seen in Busselton, Albany Geraldton and Wikepin, where much of the story of Albert Facey’s life played out. See dates below.
ACE Cinema Midland 20 Feb – March 4
Albany Orana Cinema 6 – 11 March
Busselton Orana Cinema 13 – 18 March
Geraldton Orana Cinema 20 – 23 March
Book now at https://afortunatelife.com.au/
After such a promising beginning, I look forward with enthusiasm to seeing more productions from Theatre 180 in the near future.