Mary Rose

by

J. M. Barrie

Cast & Crew
Lara Dignam; Richard Hilliar; Lana Kershaw
Sam Rushton; Brinley Meyer; Steve Bourke;
Alison Albany; Xavier Masson-Leach, Leof Kingsford-Smith.
Taylor Allen - Lighting
Original music composed and played by Russell Fitzgibbon;
Hecate (Mitch McDermott, Marisa Newnes) - Design

Roz Riley - Director; Lindsay Walton - Production manager

"Again thanks for the production of Mary Rose. I wish I'd seen it earlier in the season as I would really like the chance to see it again to check some facts and hints that are throughout the play" (Paul Lorger)
"I just wanted to thank you for a great nights entertainment! My favourite moment was when Mary Rose vanished for the second time. I thought the music, lighting and Richard moving in slow motion juxtaposed the swift moments where she was swept away strongly communicated the sense of two worlds on stage playing out simultaneously." (corinne Younan)
"There was a great review in the Manly Daily too. I've told several people about it and reccommended it" ( Beatrice Yell)

Review by Brad Skye for Australian Stage:of Mary Rose by J.M. Barrie at the Star of the Sea Theatre, 10th April, 2010

J. M. Barrie. Ring a bell? Peter Pan. But proud Scot, ir James Matthew Barrie was a playwright, as well as author. The Ghost Of Mary Rose, which dates back as far as 1919, has proved a rather under-produced play, given its originality and efficacy as a ghost story. (In fact, I feel a screenplay coming on.) As with Pan, which Barrie based on his friends, Mary Rose has some eery resonance with the dramatist's own life. When he was just 6, his brother, David, died, on the eve of his 14th birthday. Very much the favourite of their mother, he could never be replaced, in her affections, by the surviving son, despite valiant and desperate efforts, such as wearing David's clothes. Hence the theme of the lost child in a number of Barrie's works. The indefatigable Roz Riley, resident director with Factory Space, has breathed new life into the play. While succumbing to her penchant for classical background music just a little too often, Riley has assembled possibly her most even and cohesive cast to date, led by Lara Dignam, as Mary Rose Moorland, who exquisitely communicates a sense of innocence and wonderment becoming of an eternal child. Richard Hilliar is in fine fettle as her husband, Simon Blake, while Steve Bourke plays the two ages of his character (20 years apart) with great craft & empathy. Alison Albany is his match, literally and otherwise, as his upright wife.
Xavier Masson-Leach took a little while, perhaps, to get into full stride, as Harry Blake, but hit the mark when he did. (Besides, this was opening night.) Family friend and parson, Mr Amy, was convincing, thanks to Leof Kingsford-Smith. The Rowan and The Fir, who bring new meaning, or old, to the secret life of plants, played by Lana Kershaw & Brinley Meyer, were thoroughly inveigling. Sam Rushton, with his flawless brogue, is particularly delightful, as quintessential Scotsman, Cameron. Aside from a pesky drape, and a dress snagged on a trunk (spontaneously saved by Hilliar's ad libbing), stage management, by Lindsay Walton was smooth, Russ Fitzgibbon's original music was just the ticket, while Mitch McDermott's production design left something to be desired. A couple of spray-painted branches, sporting a solitary apple, poking up in front of the stage, made for a lame and laughable fruit-tree. Theatre of the mind would've sufficed, and served better. Star Of The Sea is a fine theatre, with a large, deep stage, that was poorly utilised: a cosier ambience was called for in the many housebound scenes, while greater expanse might've been utilised for the haunting atmosphere of the island that likes to be visited. Marisa Newnes costumes might benefit from better fittings, but the designs are outstandingly creative, attractive and well-researched, in terms of their evocation of early 20th-century fashion. Similarly, Nina Santucci's hair styling deserves credit. Lighting design, by Taylor Allen, erred on the side of distracting overkill, at times, and might've benefited from an eerier state, not least on the fateful island.
The play is a long one, at around two-and-a-half hours and, though a radical suggestion, I think the epilogue could be truncated, or even dispensed with altogether, for a more modern approach. Dialogue cuts could be made elsewhere, too, since the highly-mannered conversational style can tend to create drag on slippery, digital attention-spans. Still and all, much of Barrie's writing holds up timelessly. Alongside rather weighty themes, Barrie very adeptly interpolates humour: self-mocking ethnic and cultural introspection, via Cameron; a delicious dig at the English; affectionate parody of the nature of aging; and a surprising seasoning insofar as caustic commentary on mere malehood (Mrs Moorland is endowed with a biting line about men not entering a second childhood, as they never quite leave the first).
Much has been made of the story of Mary Rose, the girl who vanishes twice. Firstly, when her father leaves her in what he takes to be the safe hands of a Hebridean island, while he fishes around it. While her absence is lengthy and unendurably aggrieving to her parents (as is her second disappearance, as a newlywed, to her adoring husband), little or no time has passed, for her. And she ages not, while all around her do, markedly. There is, surely, much in this, especially for all of us who are on the wrong side of 40, at which age, if not before, one is prone to observe, or palpably experience, some bodily deterioration, but without resort to a mirror, or intensive pathology, may not feel a day over 25. Academically, Mary Rose has been invaluable and iconic in psychoanalytic theory. A number of commentators have speculated on it being an adaptation of the Oedipus myth: Mary Rose's agelessness allows her son to surpass her age, making him ripe to be her lover. She even sits on his knee, albeit in ghostly form. Her disappearances, to take a Jungian tack, are into the realm of the unconscious. Certainly Barrie must've felt as if he'd disappeared, given his mother's failure to elevate herself from the grave of his brother.
Less seems to have been written about the temporal aspects of the work, which came hot on the heels of World War 1 and its horrendous toll. With so many families afflicted by death and injury, there must've been sore temptation to return to childhood; to repair to an island, though inevitably haunted, as were so many homes, by memory and loss; there was the pining, of men in trenches, for idealised mothers; there was descent into dreams and nightmares, by those pushed to or beyond breaking-point; there were so many disappearances (two in one family was not at all unusual); and there was the dissonance between the returning soldier (still in many ways a boy, even if ruined and traumatised by action, his innocence stripped away, like so much skin) and his family, which had been timelocked, but which seemed so different.
Riley has made an excellent choice in reviving a worthy play which still has much to say and teach. It provokes, discusses and philosophises without ever threatening to be tedious or in any way didactic, or patronising. On the contrary, it uses as its media gentle, knowing humour and richly-realised characters. Director and cast have brought all of its essential qualities to bear, with perspicacity and panache. A better set is all that's needed. Build it and, given smart publicity, they will come. Regardless, you should go.
Review of Mary Rose by J. M. Barrie. 11th April at the Star of the Sea Theatre. Wendy Lewis (Playwright and online stage Reviewer)
I was taken with this play from the beginning. J M Barrie. Young Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite play. Children, the dead, loss…it sounded gripping. The production did not disappoint, brooding and full of chills and unresolved fears. But I’m still not sure what to make of the play itself. Prologue and Act One was wonderfully evocative. The Rowan and the Fir contain and control the play. They seem to mark out the physical boundaries of the world of the play with their presence; and they are suitably elfin and sensuous and mischievous. I love the way they interact with the other characters, handing them things, following them, taunting them unseeingly. And they both seemed to have knowledge, an unearthly knowledge that no one else shares. Mary Rose was so joyful and vulnerable, genuinely sweet. Her progression from such a happy girl to a l ost soul, driven to madness, was powerful. Simon too began as a young man nervously asking for a daughter’s hand in marriage and grew effortlessly into a strong, good-natured protector/husband with ease. Harry was a likeable larrikin of an Aussie soldier, although I felt sorry for him that he had to spend almost the entire production in an armchair staring resolutely ahead. Cameron was an unusual role, self-confident with a hint of menace. Why did he have an instant dislike towards young Simon? His brogue was delightful.
The Moorlands started off quite brittle with Mrs M’s nagging cough to pull her husband into line when he got a bit cagey with the pompous reverend. But they turn out to be a gentle and loving couple despite this early conflict. They never told their daughter about the strange incident when she was 11, arguably because they didn’t want to alarm her. Fair enough, I suppose… But when she returns 20 years later, the same unchanged girl, they cower in terror rather than running to her with love in their hearts. They hear her voice, they know she is out there, talking to Simon, yet they are glued to the spot. I would have them lunging towards her with Cameron holding them back, some kind of violent struggle. Yes, they are scared but shouldn’t they also be angry, confused, frustrated, overcome and utterly terrified all rolled up in one
Act Three was too long but I blame J M Barrie for that. As the knife appeared and then disappeared, I began to wonder what good killing a ghost would do, especially if she was your mother. And I thought she couldn’t kill him because she is not malignant. I wondered why she was a ghost, whereas when she returned aged 11, she wasn’t a ghost. As they paced around and around the drawing room, I began to think of quicker resolutions to the cat-and-mouse game between mother and son. I kept willing him to tell her he was his son. TELL HER YOU’RE HER SON!!!…what possible harm could it do??!
Certainly this play reflects the grief of mothers who have lost their sons in war. And it is a grief that goes on and on. Certainly it would resonate to a post-WWI audience. Perhaps it is ultimately an ode to sadness, unresolved and unending sadness. But I was disappointed that the magic and wonder and tension from Act One wasn’t carried through to the end. As I said at the beginning, I think the fault is in the writing itself. I realise that Barrie’s most vivid writing was in the words of the fairies which was the narrative. Strange that his descriptions conjure up more passion than his dialogue. Roz always selects plays that grow on you, fascinating and complex plays, and this is certainly one of them. And she has a cast of talented and exuberant actors. But…JUST TELL HER YOU’RE HER SON!!!
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Review by R. Morris

Eternity is love with the productions of time — William Blake
Factory Space's production of Mary Rose is set in the haunted house that writer J.M. Barrie built and refines his nostalgic themes in poignant, original ways. The play begins and ends its three acts after the Great War and that immense loss of life founds a drama in which absence becomes as much a character as any of the actors on stage. The title character, Mary Rose, is an enigma, evocatively played by Lara Dignam who embodies the roles of dutiful daughter, young fiancé, then wife and mother, elevating them above the cliché of the angel in the house, and giving the character a brio, which is fresh and true. In Barrie's script, she could have become a maudlin character, but her acting and Roz Riley's direction, make her a vital force in this rendition.
Bereavement marked Barrie's life. It is idiosyncratically expressed in his 1905 classic, Peter Pan, whose hero remains forever a lad. That play contains the memorable line, to die would be an awfully big adventure. Barrie's theme of loss becomes plangent towards the end of his career, notably, in this post War drama, wherein the title character, Mary Rose, is twice stolen out of life and becomes lost to her loved ones. When returned to them, like folk who ate and drank fairy food, like Sleeping Beauty, Rip Van Winkle, or a coma patient asleep for years, she does not know her loss. Her world, when she is restored to it is altered by such products of modernity as, mechanised warfare, the telegraph wire, and the mechanical clock. It fails to engage her. Like the folk who dined with the fey, Mary Rose does not recall her time out of time when she is lost (initially for twenty odd days on an island in the Hebrides, and again, for decades on this same island). After her second return, she searches for her infant son. By then there is no infant; he has grown and fled to sea. Mary Rose's tale becomes a ghost story when she dies fretting for this lost child and she haunts the house they inhabited, looking for that lad whom we meet as a young soldier wanting to help his mother's spirit leave this earthly plane.
There is much to like about this production. Mitchell McDermott's simple stage design, Lana Kershaw's memorable backdrop illustrations, Taylor Allen's understated lighting, Newnes' cheeky costumes (look out for the pantaloons, admire Mrs Moreland's and Mary Rose's outfits), Russell's evocative soundscapes unify a potentially disparate script. Director Roz Riley provides us with the narrators Rowan (Lana Kershaw) and Fir (Brinley Meyer) who give Barrie's distinctive stage directions a life beyond the printed word. The pair thread the story, enacting Mary Rose's experience of time out of time in a performance that is vibrant and economical. They become spirits of an otherworldly place, heightening the play's mystery. While all the acting is solid, Mr Moreland (Steve Bourke), the parson and Mrs Moreland (Alison Albany) are notably good. Steve Bourke's Mr Moreland is affecting without being sugary and the priest is prickly without becoming overblown. Potentially banal conversation on the ephemeral nature of happiness in the mouths of Bourke and Albany, not only retain our interest but also touch us. The entire Factory Space cast prove deft in combining comic, tragic and horror story elements into a resonant whole. The figure of the country bumpkin, a difficult part at best, and in this script a strange mix of Shakespearian porter and Aberdeen crofter's son (and theology student), is played with good humour by Samuel Rushton. The Scottish satire is Barrie's, but Rushton's delivery makes the jokes work. Sound and lighting effects were not always in place on time, however, Stage Manager, Lindsay Walton, kept most production elements in play and the solid cast, under the direction of Roz Riley were convincing and this speaks to my last point. Despite our sensibilities not being Edwardian, and our experience of death and loss rarely translating into a religious sensibility, the Factory Space production translates Barrie's play into a playful, evocative experience that remains after the play is done.
Mary Rose photographed by John Reeves