Warts and All
Written and Directed by Bruce Hoogendoorn
Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre
April 2-5 and 9-12 Tickets $25/$20, Wednesdays $15
Bookings: canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700
Researching family history is a popular pastime, but you don't know what you are going to find. This is the subject of prolific Canberra playwright Bruce Hoogendoorn's sixth play in six years, Warts and All, which he is also directing.
Hoogendoorn wrote the first draft in 2001, but found it difficult and moved on to other plays. However, he always intended to come back to Warts and All and his perseverance paid off. A few weeks ago it was runner-up in the BATS Theatre Company's Edythe Edythe Brook Cooper Playwriting Competition, winning him $1000.
Warts and All is about 17-year-old Simon (Will Huang), who has been having a hard time. He has developed osteoarthritis, which has destroyed his promising running career, has failed his HSC and his family has sent him to stay with his grandmother, Margaret (Helen Vaughan-Roberts), to help him sort out his life.
''She tries to get him back to life,'' Hoogendoorn says, ''perhaps in working on the family history.''
Simon is reluctant, but but then something strange happens. He is visited by an amnesiac ghost (Robert De Fries), known as ''Coach'' because of how he is dressed, who has to find out who he is and right a wrong from the past. And it just might have something to do with Simon's family.
His interest now piqued, Simon does some investigating and gets in touch with his grandmother's estranged cousin, Alice (Oliver Baudert).
This causes some problems and brings him into contact with other family members, including Kirsty (Adellene Fitzsimmons), Alice's granddaughter, who gets drawn into his quest.
Hoogendoorn thought casting Baudert in a female role would be interesting and points out other men have played women recently, such as Geoffrey Rush in The Importance of Being Earnest.
The play is a light comedy, but Hoogendoorn says it also has ''quite a lot of emotional impact'', dealing with family secrets and feuds, and Simon's uncertain situation and his dealings with family.
Hoogendoorn cast Huang because he looked a lot younger than his age. The 28-year-old has acted in a lot of musicals. He won a Canberra Area Theatre Award for his role in Avenue Q and recently appeared in Little Shop of Horrors and Hair, but he has also acted in plays, such as Home at the End, and is enjoying the challenge of this role.
''I'm reliving the ups and downs you have as someone growing up.'' His character ''has an enthusiasm for finding out the truth'', he says. ''He's someone I hope the people in the audience can relate to.''
Some of Hoogendoorn's plays have been performed outside Canberra. The Role Model has had three interstate productions, Alice of Hearts was produced at Helena College, Western Australia, in 2012, and in Helsinki, Finland. The Underground Ark was performed in Western Australia in 2013, and Sanity Man featured in Aberdeen, Scotland, this month.