101 | Blue Cow Theatre and Three River TheatrePhotos – Megan Casey

A play about George Orwell, sailing and danger.

Tasmanian writer, Cameron Hindrum had a well-deserved success with his first play I Am A Lake which toured Tasmania in 2018. His current play is about the last year of George Orwell’s life as he wrote his most famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. This production, by Tasmania’s Blue Cow and Three River Theatre, reinforces that he is a playwright of talent and potential.

In I Am a Lake he created a story and characters that startled with passion, rawness and depth. In this case he has explored aspects of the creative process as it is impacted by the trials of the artist’s own experience and reality. This is a play that tackles big ideas and reveals insights and parallels to our own time that are stirring and sometimes chilling. The opening night audience was entirely captivated. He is becoming a playwright to be reckoned with.

It is always exciting to see the development of an artist through their career. Jill Munro has always been a set designer of exceptional quality and originality. In recent time we have seen her work evolve to a new level. Her contribution to recent productions like Tasmanian Theatre Company’s The Mares and now to this play has been of vital importance to the success of each work. In 101 Munro has again created a setting that is filled with visual resonances for the play’s ideas-rich text and which allows the play’s many changes of mood and place to flow effortlessly. Her work goes from strength to strength.

Munro’s designs are superbly lit by Chris Jackson who deftly matches and defines mood and place with a subtle simplicity that belies his mastery of this difficult art. The same can be said also for the beautifully detailed costumes by William Dowd and the soundscape provided by Travis Hennessy. In a state where the entire performing arts receive a mere fraction of the funding given to some single, major companies elsewhere, it is staggering at times to see the sophistication of design and cleverness of production that Tasmanian theatre artists bring to their craft.

Inspiring and orchestrating this technical excellence is master director Robert Jarman who deftly weaves his actors’ evenly judged performances to provide pace and nuance. Jarman is a director who understands how to capture the moments that define a scene or sometimes a whole story. He serves his writer well here by also letting the play breathe and by ensuring the complex action unfolds clearly.

The ensemble of actors, Jane Taylor, Tia Landeg, Elliot Mc Cann, Kerry Gay and Fiontan Cassidy are led by John Saunders as Orwell and do a fine job of capturing the playwright’s intention. They should settle down well into the rhythms of the piece as they get a few performances under their belts. The most fully realized performance of opening night came from the company’s youngest member Fiontan Cassidy. He seems already to have mastered the art of internalizing a text and delivering it as his own – a very impressive debut.

The play was developed through Blue Cow Theatre’s playwright’s development program in conjunction with Dramaturge Peter Matheson. The development process has already nurtured some exciting work and this production follows in some admirable footsteps. With this state-wide Tasmanian production, Australia’s regional theatre continues to deliver worthwhile, fascinating new work of substance.

Blue Cow Theatre in association with Three River Theatre presents
by Cameron Hindrum

Director Robert Jarman

Venue: Earl Arts Centre, Launceston
Dates: 18 – 25 July, 2019
Bookings: bluecowtheatre.com

Also 30 July – 3 August 2019 – Peacock Theatre, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart