Theatre director, Kate Champion, describes the Hayes Theatre as Sydney’s version of “off Broadway”, referring to its intimate size and low key productions. Champion is currently rehearsing a brand new musical, Evie May, by Hugo Chiarella and Naomi Livingston, featuring a stellar cast. She regards the constraints of small theatres as positives.
“I think it’s the most phenomenal experience you can have to sit that close to people performing […] It makes my skin tingle and my heart beat faster to sit two rows in front of people pulling off what they’re pulling off in front of you.”
Proximity allows for more nuanced performance and subtle details and the audience feels more connected and involved.
Evie May is a fictitious story based on real facts and a composite of historical personalities drawn from life around the cabaret scene in Perth from around the 1930s to 1960s. Evie is a young girl at boarding school in a town outside Perth. One night she and a friend sneak out and go to the city where they discover the raucous, ecstatically vibrant nightlife of the Tivoli. Evie is immediately drawn to this bright, flickering world and begins a career as a performer. While Champion says she and the writers did extensive research into the history and details of Tivoli and general entertainment of the time, the musical is not intended to recreate the Tivoli stage or even focus on it.
“It’s very much a woman’s story; what it was like to try and work as a woman from the 30s through to the 60s […]There’s a lot of really great personal and social issues that are threaded through the life of a performer in the Tivoli,” explains Champion.
While some authentic songs and dances have been recreated, the set is minimal and suggestive rather than realistic. As Champion explains, “it’s almost like we’re entering Evie May’s mind as much as we are the history and the stage of her career.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, either, insists Champion.
“We’ve definitely got some laughs and some upbeat numbers … there’s serious subject matter there but there’s levity.”
Oct 12-Nov 3. Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point. $50-$65+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.hayestheatre.com.au
By Rita Bratovich