Skip to main content

The December Photo: from inspiration to a Melbourne Fringe show

Keith Gow, Writer. Richard Di Gregorio, Actor.

Look at us. Look how young we look. Look how full of hope and creativity and smiles we are.

We’re in Richard’s office, sitting in front of his Mac, generating ideas for the one man show that would eventually become RICHARD DI GREGORIO: ON TIME – which premiered at the Melbourne Fringe Festival last night.

(And check out the online story which got published in the hours before opening night.)

Richard and I met when Richard was cast in my play, “The Fidelity Act” – part of last year’s Short & Sweet Melbourne. (Thanks to Ephiny Gale for picking my script and to Yvonne Virsik for suggesting Richard, when Ephiny was having trouble casting the part of Charlie. This year would have been entirely different for us without those two people.)

During rehearsals, which began in October, Richard asked me what else I’d written. He asked if I had ever written a one-man show. It’s a great feeling as a writer to have an actor ask for more of your work – whether to find a part already written that they would be perfect for, or to be asked specifically to write something for them.

Richard had never done a one-man show before and I’d never written one. And while there was a part of me that wondered if I could do it, that whole part about a writer being flattered to be asked to write something for an actor won. And on the drive home from rehearsals, I began turning things over in my mind.

Something I learned about Richard really early on – he can tell a great story. The first great story he ever told about his life, during rehearsals, is actually a part of ON TIME. In the script I refer to it as “The Cigarette Story”, but it’s got much more to it than a story about Richard smoking – it’s about the early days of his relationship with Nin, it’s about freezing cold Ballarat nights and it’s about Braveheart. He made an intimate story seem epic. He made a small moment feel big enough to tell on stage.

Early on in the process, when the page is blank, I could write anything. What can Richard do? What is he interested in? What does he want to say? Does he want me to create a character for him? Or, should we play to his strengths – Richard telling stories about his own life?

As we sat there, in Richard’s office, for our first proper meeting – we’d met once earlier at Blue Train for dinner and drinks, but December was when we got down to business – Richard took the above photo. That was the beginning of a brilliant working relationship.

Getting to know him – remember, I’d only met him in October – and getting to know his strengths as a storyteller and other skills he had (very early on, I asked him if he could sing – this became crucial to the show), Richard told me a lot of stories about himself. Enough stories that there could be a sequel, although perhaps with another overriding theme. Or maybe we cherry picked the very best for ON TIME, ones that flow beautifully from one to the next, with some nicely crafted tangents to make a whole show.

Early on, we decided we didn’t want the show to just be stand-up. We wanted it to be a proper theatre show, even though it has elements of stand-up in it. I still don’t think I’m comfortable with the idea of writing an hour of stand-up material, but collaborating with Richard proved that I could definitely write a one-man show for the right actor.

It might be in the Comedy section of the Fringe Festival guide, but it’s a variety show. There’s stand-up and storytelling, a song (or two) and a sitcom about Time & Space dropped into the middle. And, after finally getting to see the whole show last night (my 9 to 5 job kept me away from rehearsals), it achieves a good balance of humour and contemplation; laughs and reflection. Comedy/Drama – you know, those old standards.

We had a first draft by March and a director (Chris Broadstock) soon after. Then our producer, Ephiny Gale, came on board. And the team was off and running.

Not a lot of changes happened to the script after March. We rearranged where the stories sat in the running order and we changed the tone of a couple of them, one rehearsals had started; when Richard and Chris could see how things flowed and anticipated what the audience reaction might be to the stories and to the – slightly fictionalised – Richard Di Gregorio.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve all done and thrilled with the finished product. I hope many of you reading this can come along and check it out over the next two weeks. And for those of you not in Melbourne, we’re off to Adelaide in March – and planning a little trip to Edinburgh later in the 2012. Look out world, Keith and Richard are ON TIME.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return , the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head. Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did. Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it. Agent Cooper, th

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres

Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale , clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Joe Wright’s film HANNA , screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests. Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I t

REVIEW: The Gospel According to Paul by Jonathan Biggins

Early on in Jonathan Biggins’ one-man ode to Australia’s best-dressed, collector-of-antique-clocks Prime Minister, the character of Paul Keating says that there has never been a great Australian PM. None on the scale of Churchill or Washington or Jefferson. And I wondered if the premise of the show was to submit Keating for consideration. Paul John Keating was the 24 th Prime Minister of Australia, elected to office in 1993, after ousting his predecessor, Bob Hawke, in 1991. He was a career politician from the age of 25, after managing a rock band called The Ramrods in the late 1960s. He was only Prime Minister for one full term and a bit, nothing like Hawke (in The Lodge for nearly 9 years) nor his successor, John Howard, who held the country hostage for nearly 11 . Keating was a member of the Labor Right; socially progressive but fiscally conservative. He’s famous for saying “the recession we had to have” during the economic slowdown of 1990, responding to the High Court’s Nativ

Carrie Fisher: No More Postcards

Two Princess Leias, a medal and some broken jewellry Did I ever tell you about the time Carrie Fisher kissed me on the cheek? Stick around, I’ll tell it again soon. Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia; no getting past that. Except, of course, she did. And then she stepped right back into being her last year. She was the right person to play Leia because she was the right age at the time and she is part of Hollywood royalty. She was also the right person to have been Leia in retrospect, too. Can you imagine anyone else describing Jabba the Hutt as a “giant saliva testicle”? Anyone else who would bring an audience member up on stage to mount a Leia “sex doll” and whip it away before they get close enough to fulfil their childhood fantasy? Actors, even those of Star Wars­­­ -level fame, go in and out of the spotlight. Oh, you could spot Fisher on screen in the 1980s and 90s, but much of her hard work went on behind the scenes, as a script writer and script doctor. Hook , Sist

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: THE AVENGERS assemble on the big screen

I like superheroes. I grew up with reruns of the 1960s Batman TV series. The Superman films were released when I was really young. The Amazing Spider-Man , Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were nighttime TV shows. And one of the defining motion picture releases of my teenage years was Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid – I’ve probably read more comic books, uh, graphic novels in the last ten years than any time before that. But superheroes were always very cool. And Burton’s Batman took my favourite superhero very seriously. Well, until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins appeared – taking it ultra-seriously and much darker than I’d ever hoped for. As a non-comic reader, I find it hard to align myself as a DC ( Batman , Superman , Wonder Woman ) or Marvel Universe ( Spider-Man , X-Men , The Avengers and its consitutent parts) person. They appeal to different parts of my brain. In effect, DC’s superheroes are often lone warrior

Walking out... I couldn't do it, could you?

Every so often, I think about walking out of a play, but I can't. I've never done it and I don't think I ever could. I've never walked out of a film, either. It's not in my nature. In the end, I'd rather suffer through the entire thing so I can criticise the entire play, rather than leave halfway and never know if it got any better or any worse. This has come to mind now, not because I wanted to walk out of Terence Malick's big budget experimental film The Tree of Life , but because apparently walk outs are becoming a phenomenon with that particular movie. And in a packed theatre at Cinema Nova last night, the walk outs were notable by their absense when the lights came up at the end. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste. It's very much an impressionistic film that explores grand ideas through mood and beauty, rather than telling a coherent narrative. But, even those moments in the film that were the most challenging on a "need for

Colder by Lachlan Philpott - Red Stitch

Colder Photo: Teresa Noble I’m there. I’m sitting there in the dark. Sitting there in the dark watching a play by Lachlan Philpott at Red Stitch. A child has gone missing at Disneyland but nothing evokes Disneyland for me, not even the actors wearing mouse ears. Especially not the actors wearing mouse ears and affecting exaggerated American accents. I want to feel what the mother is feeling, while officious behind-the-scenes Disney workers assure her everything is going to be fine. I want a sense of her being frantic and frustrated. But I don’t get this sense because the language of the play is putting me at a distance. The expository monologues don’t paint a picture or flesh out a world beyond the very basic (“padded concrete, padded seats”) and the facile (“padded people”). This choral arrangement of voices is not singing. Eight-year-old David remains missing all day and we learn that his single mother has felt separate from him ever since. We ar

REVIEW: let bleeding girls lie by Olivia Satchell

  Three. Three women. Three women sit silently, set an equal distance apart, each with a cannula inserted into their hands. Three women sit silently, set an equal distance apart, each with a cannula inserted into their hands, donating plasma at a blood bank in Melbourne. They are there when the audience walks into the theatre. They sit, reading a book or their phone, fidgeting as we find our seats and chatter amongst ourselves before the lights go down. The play has already started, of course. The thing about giving plasma is that the wait is part of the experience. You cannot go anywhere. You’re hooked in. They sit in a room surrounded by televisions, all tuned to the same network. Like donating blood at Harvey Norman. But they’ve come prepared to wait. Lou is writing in her journal. Grace is reading Go Set a Watchmen for her book club. Juice is scrolling endlessly on her phone. Small talk starts. It’s pleasant and awkward in equal measure. You never know if other peopl

REVIEW: Cactus by Madelaine Nunn

It’s 120 days (not counting weekends) until Abbie leaves high school, but she’s got a lot to tackle and endure in those final months. Luckily, she has her best friend, PB, by her side. Abbie’s period surprises her one day at school and she has to improvise, because she doesn’t have any tampons with her. PB hands her a roll of toilet paper under the stall and it feels like the pair of them are always there for each other in similar ways. PB seems to be more outgoing, forward thinking, forward trying, but that might be because Abbie is held back by the torture of endometriosis. High school and puberty are hard enough without feeling like there’s a cactus scraping at your insides. So, on top of the usual school dramas like exams and boys and emotions and sex and clothes and the school formal and self-defence classes, Abbie is facing the likelihood she’ll never have children. Something she has always dreamed and assumed would happen for her. Madeleine Nunn’s script is insightful, and

“Fate Will Twist The Both of You”: Twenty Year School Reunion and the party next door...

Twelve months ago, I premiered a short play of mine at The Owl & the Pussycat in Richmond. Titled You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia , the play was about how you can’t always live up to the dreams you had when you were fifteen years old. It’s definitely the most autobiographical of all my plays, dealing with one character at age 15 and at age 35, interrogating himself about where he’s been and where he’s going. It’s about finding your feet as a kid and finding your comfort zone as an adult. Paul Knox and Tom Carmody, You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia September, 2011 There was some fun to be had in the fifteen-year-old not understanding references his thirty-five-year old self makes. And some drama in the conflict between how the character had been as a teenager and how he’d wished he’d been. And the show was done in the round in the Owl & the Pussycat’s then-gallery space, as if the crowd was surrounding two kids fighting in the schoolyard. After the show, if