The Melbourne Fringe Festival boasts an array of amateur theatre across numerous locations around the city for two-and-a-half weeks. This year, The University of Melbourne’s Music Theatre Association (UMMTA) is showcasing two productions over three nights at the Meat Market in what they are calling ‘The Factory’. The Meat Market is transformed for Fringe Festival into ‘Emerald City’ and showcases a variety of theatre, art, circus acts as well as food and drinks. ‘Green Room’, is an original ‘play with music’, written and composed by James Mountain, directed by Ryan Bentley and produced by Natalie Montalto.
Set in an unspecified timeframe, Green Room is inspired by the events surrounding Pink Floyd’s ejection of Syd Barrett. Green Room’s cast comprises of only three actors, who make up a band that experience a fall from grace at the height of their stardom. The story shows each characters interpretation of the lies, manipulation and reality of the breakup of the band through monologues and scenes.
Sitting down with James, Ryan and Natalie, it is obvious that they all have a huge passion for building amateur theatre, and this passion is certainly evident in Green Room.
‘I started writing the play about six months ago. I’d just come off the back of doing another UMMTA production and I didn’t want to tackle anything political’, says James. ‘I was interested with how people lie to one another and how we play down the reality of situations. We present the best versions of ourselves to others when it’s not necessarily the truth’. Playing on this thought process, and his love of Pink Floyd, the idea of Green Room began, and six months later, he is preparing to see his work projected on the stage.
While this is not Ryan’s first stint at directing, having previously collaborated as a director alongside James as musical director in a previous production, it is his first time working with an original script. ‘I got a call from James explaining the play, and I got very excited. I had a fair bit going on, but I wanted to drop everything for the chance to work on this play. As this script is completely new, I could stage something completely new. The script has developed along with the staging, and in the process, we learnt more about the characters and delved into who they really are’.
As UMMTA’s President, Natalie has taken on more of a managerial role in the creation of the University’s showcase ‘The Factory’, and is acting as a producer for Green Room. ‘Previous years UMMTA committee had won one registration in the Fringe Festival. We had to figure out, how we as a company, who just put on musicals and had never really dabbled dramatically into original work, could really get involved in the Fringe Festival, and promote original work, which barely exists in Australia. We did a call out and had an overwhelming response, and from there we picked two plays, Green Room and Sweet Dreaming and that is how The Factory was formed’. In discussing the attraction of getting involved in the Fringe Festival, Natalie explains that ‘the point of this is not to be the greatest show of all time, the point of it is to just put on theatre. That’s what we’ve done and it’s very exciting’.
Green Room is a production aiming purely at entertaining its audiences. The stripped back set, which involves the utilisation of all elements, is divided into three areas, each representing a different kind of green room for the band. By using three moving walls, the setting is constantly evolving, and always controlled by the actors. The juxtaposition between the actors’ monologues and scenes together, showcase the conflict of the truth and what is the reality. Audiences can expect to become sceptical of the three characters, in trying to determine who is actually being honest in their descent from fame.
The three actors; Matt Healy, Dan Czech and Sia Bairaktaris all bring original elements to their characters, something which surprised both Ryan and James. ‘I actually wrote Ella’s song after working with Sia and knowing her range and strengths. So that the song is tailored specifically for her and therefore it’s the best song of the whole show’ explains James.
With Green Room’s opening night fast approaching, the excitement of putting on an original piece is both thrilling and nerve racking for James, Ryan and Natalie. With Australian Theatre still a rare commodity, it’s inspiring to see three university students working together and creating a piece, which has endless possibilities. ‘Having something so original, together we got to produce something pretty awesome’ beams Ryan.
Particularly for James, who little over six months ago, only had an idea and a love for Pink Floyd, the transformation from imagination to a complete show in staggering. ‘It’s all been in my head and it’s crazy to think that these people have done such a fantastic job with nothing else but my imagination. I’ve thrown some pretty crazy stuff out there, and Ryan, the actors and the musicians have gone off and created something, that quite frankly, is better than what I expected’.
The Factory presents ‘Sweet Dreaming’ and ‘Green Room’ at The Gingerbread House, Emerald City (Meat Market – 5 Blackwood Street, Melbourne).
15th, 16th and 17th of September at 8pm.
Tickets – Adult $25, Concession $20