Lisa Sewards featured in the Winter 2013 edition of Imprint Magazine.
See article in its original context here by Anne-Marie on her blog Sometimes Melbourne Theatre talk.
Jane Miller is one of my favourite Melbourne writers. Her work lets us see the hearts of her broken characters and she knows that the only way to survive the unexpected horrors of love is to embrace the darkness and laugh.
True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is set in a country town where two couples are trying to figure out what to do next. For Maggie and Jake, it’s a trip to Graceland and things like Maggie’s husband or Jakes lack of money needn’t stand in the way of their dream.
With spot on performances (Chris Broadstock, Marnie Gibson, Emily Goddard, David Kambouris, Elizabeth McColl and Glenn van Oosterom) and tone-perfect direction by Beng Oh, there’s not much more to say, except that it finishes on Sunday.
Images by Justin Batchelor and Helen Rekkor.
Artist Greg Ades working in the fortyfivedownstairs studio during the inaugural fortyfivedownstairs Artist in Residency programme, May 2013. All photos © fortyfivedownstairs, 2013
See article in its original context here by Tim Hunter for Time Out Melbourne.
Life literally is a cabaret for Michael Griffiths at the moment. After finishing a mammoth run with Jersey Boys as one of three remaining original cast members in Perth, he’s off touring with not one, but two cabaret shows, and both of them feature two of the most recognisable women in pop music history. While his Madonna show is still doing the rounds, Griffiths’ new show, Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox, featuring in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival focuses on the life and music of Annie Lennox.
“Who can say why gay men fall in love with pop divas,” ponders Griffiths. “When I was young, Annie was my idol, much more than Madonna; Madonna was a bit obvious, but Annie was much more mysterious and strong. And less overtly sexual, which resonated with me. There’s also a sadness in her songwriting that Madonna doesn’t have access to, and there’s a real humanity in Annie’s work; there’s always loss and longing and heartbreak. Madonna was much more about a good time. I love them both, of course.”
As well as being a formidable solo performer, Lennox started out as one half of the Eurythmics back in the early 1980s, and Griffiths will be using songs from these early years to tell the story of her relationship with Dave Stewart. Along with classic songs like ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Love is a Stranger’ and ‘Who’s That Girl’, he’ll also include some lesser-known songs as well.
See article in its original contexte here by Ash Cottrell for Theatre People.
Fortyfive downstairs is one of my favourite art spaces in the city so when I get the chance to see a play there, I jump at the opportunity. I love the descent into the depths of the theatre from the street entrance and I’ve often wondered if there were forty-five stairs on the way down as well, but always forget to count. I find the steep stairs and the fairy lights dazzling on the way down and the anticipation for the looming performance grows as the set is revealed once at the bottom.
This time around the lower ground floor revealed a compelling set (designed by Christina Logan-Bell) that consisted of a large corrugated iron structure dominating the area. It looked rustic, rural and intrinsically Australian. It was also walked on by the audience as they were ushered to their seats and I started to wonder whether the show would be interactive. The set was sprawling and I thought as I sat in the front row how exciting it would be to have the actors cover such a large space. They did it well and to my credit, I chose the right seat to capture all of the drama.
Comedy/Drama would perhaps be a more apt genre description as there was plenty of comedic relief amidst the drama. At one point Fawlty Towers meets Dog Day Afternoon came to mind when a stick-up turned into a hilarious exchange as incompetent characters met stubborn and fearless ones. Indeed for me, it was the farcical moments in the play, performed with brilliant timing and physical comedy that were the most enjoyable.
Here, the stand out performers were David Kambouris who played the volatile, arms-dealing, dedicated dog owner, Richard and Elizabeth McColl who played the straight talking Aussie battler, Glenda. On this point, I loved this play’s willingness to be silly. Too often in my opinion, theatre plays the dark and serious notes and there doesn’t seem to be enough of the playful. In these stakes, True love travels on a gravel road delivered the goods.
See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
In her new play, Jane Miller treads a fine line between black comedy and romantic drama, in which six characters are bound together on a day scarred by lethal violence.
The deadly climax looms with the inevitability of a thriller, and the short, jigsaw-like scenes that lead to it tease out questions of infatuation and intimacy, often with an enjoyably offbeat sense of humour.
Sam (Chris Broadstock) is a bank worker having the day from hell. He has faced the music for cheating on his wife (Marnie Gibson), but things get much worse when his hapless co-worker Jake (Glenn van Oosterom) turns up with a gun and a crazy plan to elope with his lover Maggie (Emily Goddard).
A hostage situation develops and everything that can go wrong, does.
Played on a corrugated-iron set with a noir-like reveal, the production is swift and twisted with a weird, cartoonish quality. Director Beng Oh seems to have a talent for dark farce: I laughed out loud at the cleverly handled banter, heightened caricature and ludicrous comedy.
See article in its original context here by Liza Dezfouli for artsHub.
Jane Miller’s True Love Travels on a Gravel Road opens with young ingénue Maggie asking the audience a question – is any of what is about to happen her fault?
Taking the title of an Elvis song as its name, this play asks big questions about romance, showing how fantasies of love can create monsters of us all. True Love Travels on a Gravel Road offers a range of comic characters in a small town that find themselves victims of a farcical heist gone wrong, a blundered would-be crime committed for love by Jake (Glen van Oosterom).
Jake and Maggie (Emily Goddard, radiant in the role) are lovers. Each is ‘a little bit out of step’. Jake wants to make Elvis fan Maggie happy by fulfilling her dream of visiting Graceland. But as Maggie’s embittered single mum Glenda observes, theirs is a match made in a sheltered workshop. Maggie is married for a start. Jake’s not the brightest boy in town and his prospects are small. The phrase ‘giving it all up for love’ is put on its feet here in a nicely structured, very funny play, which treats all its characters with affection.
Trying to prove himself as something more than a ‘tard’ leads Jake on a hopeless course to acquire the money to take Maggie away. A secondary story hinges around Jake’s boss, Sam (Chris Broadstock), and his practical wife Angie (Marnie Gibson), exploring the consequences of their inability to admit vulnerability to each other.
This production, tightly directed by Beng Oh, enjoys standout performances from Goddard and Liz McColl, who crackles and sparks as Glenda – she has many hilarious lines to work with and makes super use of her natural funniness. However, to my mind, Glenda became stuck on the one subject and I would like to see her comment more broadly. Glenda is reflected on stage by petty crim Richard (David Kambouris), bringing a nice comic timing and oddly sympathetic presence to his hapless gun-dealing dog owner roped into a small town drama.
True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is a beautifully written play that cares deeply about the lives of each of its six characters as they stumble towards happiness. Written by Jane Miller, and clearly benefitting from careful script development (aided by an R E Ross Trust playwrights’ award in 2011), it impresses because its characters and their situations are so believable.
Quite often plays in Melbourne’s independent scene get produced without going through a rigorous process of re-writing and workshopping, or at least that’s how it looks. Some might say that’s a good thing, because it gives the scene an edge and allows for experimentation. But when the audience comes away thinking the play was written more for the playwright’s enjoyment than their own, that’s not good for anybody.
Happily,True Love comes to the cavernous 45 downstairs performance space as a fully realized, and very entertaining piece of theatre. Director Beng Oh says, in the program notes, that Miller’s every word “has been carefully chosen, tweaked and placed just so”, and you agree with him.
The story presents three couples – the dreamy Maggie (Emily Goddard) who is married but longs for a happier life with the sweetly deluded Jake (Glenn van Oosterom); office workers Sam (Chris Broadstock) and Angie (Marnie Gibson), whose courtship and marital problems are achingly real. Finally, there is the bogan gun-dealer Richard (David Kambouris) who starts to develop an appreciation for Maggie’s jaded mum Glenda (Elizabeth McColl) in an hilarious scene in which they are both tied to a chair by an electric power cord.
See article in its original context here by Dione Jospeh for Australian Stage.
In a post-modern world driven largely by instant gratification it isn’t often that love stories resonate. Littered with cheap clichés and histrionic characters its quite rare to come across a simple tale, a story of unrequited love and staged with all the simplicity that such a story deserves.
Jane Miller’s Australian play set in a regional country town aspires to be just that, but unfortunately it narrowly misses the mark. True Love Travels On a Gravel Road,taken from one of Elvis’ more obscure songs, is the story of Jake, a young man dismissed as the town ‘tard’ who is committed to making the woman of his dreams happy.Maggie has always wanted to go to Graceland and Jakeis determined to make this dream a reality. With numerous obstacles in his path, not least his lack of money, Maggie’s straight-shooting mother, Glenda and the fact that Maggie is married, Jake must make some hard decisions. But there’s more than one romance afoot. Jake’s boss, Sam has his own problems about security and commitment and fumbles his way through a relationship while Glenda isn’t shy of sharing the ramifications of being a single mother. Add a somewhat psychotic dog owner with a penchant for providing arms and you have a very mixed bag of characters.
However, Miller has the remarkable ability to capture the language of her characters from the prattle of a bitter mother to the anxiety of a unfaithful husband. Maggie, played by Emily Goddard, is the epitome of the wistful maiden trapped in a pragmatic marriage, and while her vocal expression has the tendency to fall into a monotone, the passion and vulnerability exhibited by her lover Jake, (Glenn van Oosterom) does create some special chemistry on stage. As the jaded mother Elizabeth McColl settles into her role as the play progresses and gives one of the most memorable performances, perhaps more endearing in her sympathy towards Jake near the end than for all her rancorous comments. The relationship between Sam (Chris Broadstock) and Angie (Marnie Gibson) is somewhat extraneous to the actual narrative of Jake wanting to take Maggie to Graceland but is within itself a perceptive portrayal of relationships over time. As the slightly maniacal supplier of essential ‘merchandise’David Kambouris offers a strong performance, at his best when paired up with McColl.
See article in its original context here by Tim Byrne for Time Out.
Despite a few bumps along the way, this Elvis-inspired tale of love-and-armed robbery is still a road worth travelling.
Photos by Sophie Dewhirst and Glenn van Oosterom
When you’re young and living in an unnamed rural Australian town, options can seem pretty limited. You can marry a truck driver or get knocked up by the local chemist. You can screw around on your wife or you can hold up your workplace for ten grand and a plane ticket to Graceland. The characters in True Love Travels on a Gravel Road (a mouthful of a title and not particularly accurate) try all of these things and none of it helps much. Escape is not an option.
Maggie (the excellent Emily Goddard) is married to Trevor but head over heels for Jake (Glenn van Oosterom), or at least for what Jake is willing to do for her. Her mum, tough-talking Glenda (Elizabeth McColl), has instilled a love of Elvis in her daughter, especially Elvis the actor, and playwright Jane Miller brilliantly weaves a number of Elvis’ star turns into the dialogue. Elvis is inspiration and goal, both King and God, and Maggie gets it into her head that Graceland would represent a kind of Shangri-La for young love. Or perhaps a paradise lost. Jake decides to do what it takes to get them there.
In counter-point to the impulsiveness of Maggie and Jake, Miller offers us another relationship in Sam (Chris Broadstock) and Angie (Marnie Gibson). Hapless and ambivalent, Sam marries Angie but can’t really accept that she will stay. He’s constantly preempting their break-up, much to Angie’s understandable frustration. At one point he says to her ‘I imagine you leaving and having millions of options’. What he neglects to see is that for Angie options are irrelevant. She’s made her choice.
The cast is rounded out by Richard (David Kambouris), a local arms dealer and the one who provides the Chekhovian gun that is bound to go off before the night is through. Although the mood here is more Raising Arizona thanUncle Vanya.
Miller’s strength as a writer is in her monologues. The play is strongest when Maggie and Sam address the audience directly. Goddard in particular manages to invest her character with a dark and suggestive subtlety, at once innocent naïf and dangerous siren. It’s unfortunate she isn’t in it more. The play is on less stable footing when it tries to negotiate action. The central scene is a hold-up, a tense and dramatically rich scenario that is largely overplayed and eventually pushed into the realms of pure farce.
Melbourne playwright Jane Miller is the first in a new series of chats about writing and what it’s like to be a writer. Before the opening night of her new play, she chats with Anne-Marie Peard and offers advice to emerging playwrights, which all begins with reading and seeing plays and theatre.
Miller’s second full-length play opens this week at fortyfive downstairs in Melbourne. True Love Travels on a Gravel Road, which is also the name of an Elvis Presley song, was a recipient of the R E Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Award in 2011.
Described as a comedy about living the dream, it’s about Jake, who has been pegged as the town “tard” all of his life, but when he falls in love with Maggie anything seems possible and making Maggie’s dream of escaping to Graceland becomes his quest.
Miller’s plays have been produced around Australia and internationally, beginning in 2006 whenPerfect Stillness reached the finals of Short & Sweet in Melbourne where it won the People’s Choice award for Best Overall Production.
Her first full-length work, Happily Ever After, premiered in 2010 at La Mama with a sell-out season followed by a tour.
What made you want to write this play?
I was asked to write a piece for the National Theatre Drama School and started working on a few scenes. Unfortunately work commitments meant I couldn’t pursue the opportunity but I had written a scene between two guys on a street undertaking a business transaction with a dog barking continually and interrupting them. The rest of the play evolved from my curiosity about that transaction.
How long did it take you to write it/how many drafts?
I wrote the first scene in 2009 and finished the first draft in January 2011. I kept leaving it and coming back to it in between other projects but once I finished the complete first draft, I worked on it consistently through the readings and The R E Ross Trust Development process. We are rehearsing version 16.