Prodigal ended its 2011 run last night just after 630pm. Nothing signals the end of a season as definitively as the crew rushing in to disassemble the set; pulling down curtain rails that took four days to get right, wheeling out the water feature, putting the scaff pipes back into position, carrying out the free-standing door, unplugging the projector. The last show, in the tradition of almost all last shows, was both moving and somehow not quite enough to encapsulate the experience as intensely as everyone involved wanted.
Stellar last audience – Robyn Nevin, Rhonda Burchmore, Kate Kendall, Michael Cormick – in fact, a pretty amazing turnout over the course of the season (Todd McKenney sat at the lighting desk during the Saturday perf). I always find it difficult to engage in the last show, especially when I produce – your mind is always on other things (I was particularly focused on turning the aircon on and off during the show – it was a 40 degree day).
The joy of the season is thinking over the whole experience – from taking the plunge in October, while still in Toronto, when Cara offered us 45DS as part of Midsumma to our first rehearsal as a full cast – only 27 days ago! Prodigal 2011 felt easy and blessed from the beginning, and continued that way. It was a season of firsts for us – our first show, obviously, but our first show to make budget before it opened, our first show to extend before we’d played a single performance, our first Australian review, our first piece in the Sunday Herald-Sun, our first show to sell every single ticket in the entire season (attendance sat at around 110% as from Week 2, we upped the capacity by 8, then 10 seats).
Reviews ranged from positive to raves –
”remarkable for its musical ambition and dramatic assurance…the ensemble performance make this production extraordinary. Prodigal is a smart and big-hearted tear-jerker. It’s home grown musical theatre at its finest.” The Age
“a nuanced and emotionally-riveting drama of universal appeal…Hardy and Wood offer powerful and moving performances.” The Sunday Age
“touching and passionate piece…and it’s cast and acted superbly” The Australian
“one of those rare productions where everything is perfect: the direction, the acting, the lighting, the set design” Stage Whispers
“…a work of quality… Prodigal’s return was well worth the wait.” Theatrepeople
With not a single one failing to mention how brilliant the cast was as whole.
Highlights of the experience –
- working with a first-time designer, Joanna Butler, and having her absolutely nail it, never lose her cool and create a look unlike any of our other shows
- having a stage manager, Meg, who could always be relied on to get the show working
- the poster shoot – cold, mundane and resulting in a magical image
- the fun we had in rehearsals – never stressful, always joyful
- making Maddy a real artist and spending hours defining the piece she creates – then being able to make it amazing onstage
- the night Meg showed us how the curtains could be made to work – then seeing them work pretty flawlessly every performance afterwards
- working with Rob’s beautiful lighting – sidelight!
- hearing from so many of my friends who are now mothers how intensely it moved them
- working with video art for the first time (thanks Angus), and loving it, especially when it had odd connections to what was going on in front
- being able to bring the cast and crew back to our apartment for drinks (possibly too many on the last night)
- falling in love with the very first thing we created together again, after years of neglect and maybe even a little embarrassment.
But the last bow is taken, the curtains come down (literally) and the space returns to neutral. It was a riotous after-party – we jammed a meal into our mouths then headed in to watch my other Midsumma hit, Liza (on an E), where Trevor entertained us and 500 others for two hours. Then back to our house for a very long night – Chrissy had prepared vodka jelly shots, which moved into just vodka shots (out of our rarely-used sherry glasses – totes classy) and moved into attempts at a sing-a-long, a random BBQ where we cooked frozen party pies on the grill (quite successful, actually). At three, the last guests left (one about to experience his first ever hangover, reports go), and it was time to put Prodigal, and its writers, to bed.
We have no plans for Prodigal, though everyone wants to know what happens next. It already went to New York City years ago, but strangely, has never been to the city where it’s set, Sydney. If I had one dream for the show, it would be for it to be part of Mardi Gras Festival next year, with this cast and production.