Ballarat National Theatre

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Performance Dates



Arnold Hassock Simon Carrol
IIsa Wolby Lisa Hand
Jess Bales Christine Holmes
Grace Sims Jane Gaylor
Vivvi Dickins Alana McDonald
Clem Pepp Peter Vanderkley
Brevis Winterton Hadley Thomson


Directed & Designed Peter Nethercote
Written By Alan Ayckbourn
Stage Manager Michael Courneyea
Deputy Stage Manager Robyn Ashmore & Jade Martin
Switchboard Savannah Clark
Sound Michael Zala
Production Manager Hedley Thomson
Lighting Rig & Focus Liam Mudge & Savannah Clark
Electrician Frank Hanrahan
Set Construction Les O'Hanlon
Specialised Props Marg and Gordon Jarvis, Frank Hanrahan and Peter Vanderkley
Costumes Kate Sullivan and Peter Nethercote
Photography Gary Hunt
Frount of House Yvonne Downing and BNT Members
Pre Production Robyn Ashmore, Ross Barnes, Simon Carroll, Yvonne Downing, Tim Gay, Wendy Hall, Lisa Hand, Liz Hardiman, Andrew Henwood, Christine Holmes John Krul, Brian McClelland, Alana McDonald, Les O’Hanlon, Ken Prato, Peter Nethercote, Sally Read, Hedley Thomson, Liesl Vanderkley, Peter Vanderkley, Graham Walker, Michael Zala and Peter Zala.


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Review by Gail Sjogren

Improbable Fiction; enjoyable fact

If you are looking for deep philosophical discussion or challenging intellectual debate this is probably not the play for you. But if light-hearted entertainment and a really good laugh are more your preference at this hectic time of year, then you will find both at BNT’s current production, Improbable Fiction.

The action takes place at the elegant home of Arnold Hassock, convenor of the local writers’ circle. Six would-be writers assemble to discuss their latest efforts, all of which sound fairly unlikely ever to find a publisher. A funny but low-key first act closes, thunder is heard, and in Act Two chaos ensues as the writers’ characters come to life. So wacky is this concept that I will not try to explain what follows, only to say that the pace becomes frenetic as poor Arnold struggles to work out what is going on. Characters from all the writers’ efforts, a dead body upstairs, a poetry spouting detective with a weeping sergeant, various Victorian ladies, mad sci-fi alien hunters, a wicked nephew and a helpless victim all appear and disappear in Arnold’s living-room.

Simon Carroll, playing the well-meaning but bewildered Arnold, remains recognisable throughout and very effectively anchors the whole mad romp as everyone else changes character, costumes and accents. Newcomer to Ballarat Lisa Hand is a charming and flirtatious Ilsa, then the helpless and vulnerable Victorian maiden, while another newcomer, Alana McDonald, clearly relishes her role as the giggly creator of the weeping sergeant whom she then brings to life. Peter Vanderkley clearly enjoys being in turn a Victorian villain and a poetic detective, while Christine Holmes, Jane Gaylor and Hedley Thompson show yet again what remarkably versatile actors they are in a range of contrasting roles which really display their acting talents. This is a remarkably strong ensemble cast whose amazing energy and quick change ability leave me in awe.

Directed and designed by Peter Nethercote, the production has all the hallmarks of his attention to detail, with a wonderfully atmospheric set, excellent costuming (requiring the quickest of quick changes), and some wonderful props. Better still as a recommendation, the cast clearly enjoy themselves enormously, which is usually a reliable indication that the audience will do the same.