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Ballarat National Theatre

barchester logo

 

Production Dates

28th November to 12th December 

Synopsis

BARCHESTER comes to BALLARAT
“Barchester” is a musical adaptation of the Classic Novel by Anthony Trollope.

Local theatre personality Peter Nethercote says ‘I first encountered Barchester Towers when it was on the syllabus for Year 12 Eng. Lit. As soon as I read it I knew it should be a musical — with its world of unforgettable characters: the terrible Mrs. Proudie; her meek husband, the new Bishop of Barchester; the irascible Archdeacon Grantly: the admirable widow, Eleanor Bold, and her three suitors – diffident Mr. Arabin, lackadaisical Bertie Stanhope, and despicable Mr. Slope; and also the delectable but ruthless cripple, Madeline Neroni. “Barchester” gives us the loves, infatuations, rivalries and intrigues of these and many other characters; and does it to music. This World Premiere 

 

Cast

Mr Septimus Harding, precentor Chris Baulch
Mrs Eleanor Bold Carolyn Bennett
Dr Theophilus Grantly, archdeacon Hedley Thomson
Mrs Susan Grantly Kym Ivory
Mrs Proudie Jane Gaylor
Mr Obadiah Slope, Bishop Chaplian Brendan Bawden
Dr Thomas Proudie, Bishop of Barchester Brnedan Clarke
Dr Vesey Stanhope, Prebendary Gordan Jarvis
Miss Stanhope Margaret Jarvis
Miss Charolte Stanhope Katrina Foord
Ethelbert (Bertie) Stanhope Dylan Shalless
La Signora Madeline Neroni Elizabeth Hardiman
Marco, the Stanhopes Italian Manservant Stephen Holmes
Mr Francis Arabin, Vicar of St Ewold's Matthew Haymes
Priscilla, the Stanhopes Maid Chris Holmes
Miss Trefoil Ann Edgar
The Countess deCourcy Gail Sjogren
The Honourable John deCourcy Josh Vucicevic
The Lady Margaretta de Courcy Kylie Langdon
Barchester Clergy David Collins
Nobility and Congregation Randall Dreger, Lincoln Hunt, Lynne Muller

Crew

Director & Design Peter Nethercote
Musical Director Stewart Greedy
Orchestration John Sawcross
Choral Direction Jean Arnott
Set Construction Frank Lilley
Wardrobe Lynne Muller
Millinery Martelle Hunt
Lighting Design Liam Mudge
Hair & Wigs Kyle Langdon & Chris Angel
Stage Manager Liam Mudge
Switchboard Toni Decini
LX Rig Jackie Wood
Props Chris Holmes & Gail Sjogren

Gallery

Browning8
Frontpiece Photo
Barchester Mini 2
Barchester Mini 1
Barchester Mini 3

Review - Barchester

Reviewer: John Poliness

Some years ago the ABC brought us an adaptation of part of Anthony Trollope’s The Barchester Chronicles. We met the widowed Eleanor Bold and her gentle father, the Reverend Septimus Harding, as well as Bishop Proudie, his overbearing wife and his oily chaplain, Mr. Slope.

In the town of Barchester in the 1850s Dr. Proudie has been appointed as the new bishop. With him come Mrs. Proudie and his chaplain, Mr. Slope. Other positions within the church become vacant, and Slope becomes involved. Attracted by her fortunes, he is also a suitor to the widowed Eleanor Bold, while flirting with the fascinating but penniless Signora Vesey-Neroni.
When Peter Nethercote, who is well known to Ballarat audiences as actor, director and playwright, read the novel in his final year at school he knew it should be a musical. In it he found colourful characters and a plot involving the love story of Eleanor Bold, the struggle for positions within the church and the undoing of Mr. Slope.

He wrote his musical and has waited until now to see it come to life. He has made only minimal changes to it, and Ballarat audiences now have the privilege of seeing its premiere at the Courthouse Theatre.
As director, Peter Nethercote has strong support from his cast of twenty-two. Carolyn Bennett plays the central and attractive character of the widow Eleanor Bold with great skill and a magnificent voice. Her suitor Mr. Slope is played by Brendan Bawden. He captures convincingly the obsequious character of the chaplain who repels the good souls of Barchester. Equally impressive is Hedley Thomson who plays the fiery Archdeacon Grantly.
And now for the bishop and his wife. Brendon Clarke gives a convincing performance of the ineffectual Dr Proudie, a contrast to his formidable wife – a demanding part played with great skill by Jane Gaylor.
There are excellent performances too from Elizabeth Hardiman as the scheming Madeline Neroni, Chris Baulch as the gentle Septimus Harding and Kym Ivory as Mrs Grantly.

Matthew Haymes as Vicar Arabin, Dylan Shalless as Bertie Stanhope, Katrina Foord as Charlotte Stanhope and Gayle Sjogren as Countess de Courcy also give strong performances.
The Nethercote-designed set – the diocese of Barchester in the 1850s with its cathedral cloisters, its bishop’s palace and the drawing rooms of its residents -- built by Frank Lilley and his crew brilliantly captures the era. The period costumes made by Lynne Muller and her team will impress and delight. Audiences will enjoy the music of the small band directed by Stewart Greedy and the voices of the ensemble trained by Jean Arnott - particularly when they open Act 2. Congratulations also must go to stage manager Liam Mudge and his crew.

There is much to admire and much that is entertaining in this musical. Peter Nethercote and Ballarat National Theatre have given us another first-rate production, it opened on Saturday night, and you should include it in your end-of-year celebrations.

Review - Barchester

Reviewer: Matt Hustwaite - Theatre People Website

On a gloomy and rainy Ballarat afternoon, it was with a mix of curiosity and some trepidation that I entered the Courthouse Theatre to view Barchester, a new Australian musical written and directed by Ballarat’s Peter Nethercote. Seeing the first incarnation of any new piece is always exciting with a dash of worry of not knowing what you are in for. It was pleasant to see a near full house arrive to see the production, a good sign for the season to come.
Barchester is based on Anthony Trollope’s series of novels “The Barchester Chronicles”, specifically the 2nd book Barchester Towers, and finds the central figure Eleanor Bold (played by Carolyn Ryan) widowed, and her father, the Reverend Septimus Harding (Chris Baulch) hoping to be restored to the chaplaincy of St Hiram’s Hospital. What ensues are the conflicts between the religious figures of Barchester and the romantic pursuits of many the young suitor.
Upon entering the theatre I was blown away by the marvellous set, designed with detail by Mr Nethercote. Clearly a lot of effort had been put into the design and construction of it and the authentic looking cathedral setting immediately brought you into the world of the show. Throughout the piece the set was manipulated in clever ways to establish various settings throughout the location and I was again impressed with the way Mr Nethercote was able to transform the limited venue that is the Courthouse Theatre
Mr Nethercote has written a musical that is reminiscent of the classic operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan with lively, swift melodies and is played effectively by the 5 piece band under the direction of Stewart Greedy. The show opens with the24 person cast singing the title number and I was immediately impressed with the group singing. Choral Director Jean Arnott has brought out a beautiful sound with the cast, with clear and crisp harmonies a treat to the ear. The cast should also be commended for their clarity with the very wordy lyrics. Unfortunately the tight ensemble singing doesn’t translate to some of the solo and duo songs, with some range and strength issues amongst various singers.
Carolyn Bennett gives a strong and detailed performance as the central character Eleanor Bold. She presents an endearing and likeable persona that is easy for the audience to connect with and enjoy. She has a strong grip on the heightened language of the piece and sings with a beautiful soprano voice.
Playing opposite Carolyn as her two duelling love interests are Brendan Bawden as the sly womanizer Odadiah Slope and Matthew Haymes as the loveable and introverted Francis Arabin. The characterisations from these actors are a perfect contrast and allows us to easily like one and dislike the other. Brendan’s portrayal of Slope is charming, graceful and charismatic which coupled with his cruel intentions makes the audience love to hate him. His convincing reactions to his two simultaneous lady pursuits crossing paths was well done and a hoot to watch. Matthew’s performance of Arabin gives us a loveable contrast to the conniving Slope and from his introduction has the audience on his side, like the good guy in all romantic comedies.
Other performances of note were Hedley Thompson’s irreverent and wound up Theophilus Grantly and the talented Jane Gaynor who played the delightfully horrid Mrs Proudie to perfection.
Unfortunately I felt that the individual performances were hindered by the length and complication of the piece. The central love story of the near 3 hour performance was unnecessarily complicated with the addition of the Bertie character as another suitor, which had minimal storyline progression throughout the piece. While played well by Dylan Shalless, this plot addition could easily be removed to cut back on time. The main plot of Eleanor Bold came to a very rushed conclusion and alot of trimming could be afforded to give more time to this story and to make Barchester a more streamlined performance.
That being said, Barchester is well worth seeing with some strong performances in a piece that is a nice throwback to the classic operetta style of theatre and forgetting any critique of the piece, I recommend you see it if you can, just for the chance to experience and support a premiere Australian work.

***[Matt Hustwaite, who wrote this review, - has been fortunate enough to have had many great theatrical experiences in his young life, from playing Will Parker in Oklahoma on Melbourne's Her Majesty's stage to collaborating with Mark Seymour on vocal arrangements and performance of Dust. Following his time studying at the University of Ballarat Arts Academy, he seems to have developed a penchant for producing shows with long titles, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and the upcoming The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee under his belt. He currently sits on the committees of BLOC Music Theatre and Golden Rivers Theatre Group.
As a 14 year old Matt Played the boy in BNT's Production of ‘This Property is Condemned’ which won five awards on the One-Act festival circuit including Most promising new-comer for Matt.