Underneath the Lintel. By Glen Berger. Directed by John Concannon. Honest Puck Productions. CADA Theatre, 1/9 Lithgow Street, Fyshwick. April 16-19, 23-26. Tickets $38/$25. Bookings: 6253 1454 or stagecenta.com.
The Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art was founded in 2009 by actor-director James Scott and his wife, playwright Elizabeth Scott. Now the Scotts have embarked upon a new but related collaborative project, a professional theatre company they have called Honest Puck Productions.
James Scott says it is named after the mischievous fairy in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream – who isn't altogether honest – and, in a nod to the forest setting of the play, the company is intended to be economically, artistically and environmentally sustainable. It isn't government-funded so it will need to be self-sustaining. And, like Puck, it's meant to weave some theatrical magic.
He says it is something they have wanted to get off the ground for some time but their responsibilities at CADA made it difficult until now. Honest Puck is intended to provide a vehicle for CADA graduates and staff to ply their trade in Canberra. It will focus on mounting small productions in CADA's 50-seat theatre and Scott says, "We want plays to have some sort of meaning … we want the audience to have a profound theatrical experience when they come and see a show."
Its first production will be the one-man play Underneath the Lintel by Seattle playwright Glen Berger. CADA teacher John Concannon, a veteran writer, actor and producer whose credits include ABC TV's The Boffin, The Builder and The Bombardier, will direct Scott in the role of a Dutch librarian who receives a book that has been returned 113 years overdue.
Scott says this startling occurrence – and the discovery of a laundromat stub and a pair of trousers – shakes the character out of his routine, unexciting life as he becomes intrigued by the question of why the book has been so long in coming back and embarks upon a journey around the world to find out.
"One of the themes is that the universe is bigger than you might imagine it to be."
He says the play is beautifully written with clever dialogue but very accessible for audiences.
While there's no shortage of theatre companies in Canberra, Scott says Honest Puck isn't intended to compete with any of them given its focus is on the staff and graduates of CADA, providing opportunities for their talents to shine.
As it is a professional company the intention is to provide some sort of payment for those involved when and how it is possible, whether through a percentage of takings or a regular wage.
Honest Puck's second production, in July, will be The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) which Scott will direct. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, it's a parodic but educational romp through all of Shakespeare's plays. So far CADA graduates Brendan Kelly and Ryan Pemberton have been cast.
Looking further ahead, Scott says next year the company might produce some of Elizabeth Scott's writing. She is very much involved in the new company, he says, on the writing and managerial side of things.
"She keeps me in check."