Young Actors Lift in Epic River Story

The River at the End of the Road. Photo credit: Ian Sutherland Photography

HotHouse Theatre’s 2018 season is underway, launching with a new Australian work, The River at the End of the Road.

Written by Sport for Jove’s Caleb Lewis, and featuring Mark Lee (Gallipoli, A Place to Call Home), the play tells the story of Young Flo Shephard and her dad Ford who live alone on the edge of the river, operating a rundown bait shop and ferry service.

Photo credit: Ian Sutherland Photography

While Dad is kept busy ferrying visitors to the far shore of the river, Flo pines for her long-lost mother Lori and dreams of adventure beyond her sheltered world, little realising how close it lies.

The production has been in development for two years with Caleb interviewing many locals about their relationship with the river, and investigating the mythology of rivers including the mystical River Styx which forms the boundary between the world of the living and the dead.

For HotHouse Theatre’s 2016-2017 Studio Ensemble it’s meant being part of an unusual process that has only seen the full cast come together in the last two weeks, and a rare opportunity for the young actors to work with the show’s acclaimed director, Damien Ryan.

Local teaching artist and Studio Ensemble director, Anni Gifford said it was a bit uncertain as to how bringing the casts from Albury, Melbourne and Sydney together would work, but the experience has been extremely positive for the ensemble and professional casts.

Photo credit: Ian Sutherland Photography

“Just two weeks ago we were a little panicked – what is it going to be like when the professional casts get here? How much do we need to have the lines down? Really what we were doing was playing with the text because we knew when the cast and creative crew got here we would be able to start working cohesively with everyone.”

Anni said there were a lot of professional actors beating down the door to work with Damien, and the ensemble members, under his direction and working with the professional cast had thrived.

“It’s been such a positive experience. There is no feeling of the professional cast coming in and the ensemble members following in their wake. There’s a real sense that everyone is contributing to the creating and devising process.”

“Everyone has been so generous. They can’t stop complimenting the ensemble members who continually lift and have had to work with what I am sure is one of the world’s shortest production timeframes ever.”

For Anni, it has also meant the opportunity to observe and learn from a theatre maker she has great respect for.

Photo credit: Ian Sutherland Photography

“He is so generous. I’ve been taking so many notes. He ensures there is a shared understanding of what he wants. He will talk through what he wants to achieve with a scene before you do it. I love listening to the way he articulates that and makes sure that everybody’s on the same page. He understands that when that happens that’s when the magic happens.”

Studio Ensemble member, Thomas Keatings agrees.

“One of my favourite things he does as a director is that if there’s something he wants you to do, he’ll do it first and then he’ll get you to do it next to him. Then he’ll do it and walk you through it step by step, and then you’ll do it on your own. It’s really cool he does it that way.”

Fellow ensemble member Sarah Maloney said working with Damien and the rest of the cast and crew had been incredible.

“I thought it’s Sport for Jove, this big award winning theatre company from Sydney, and they’re going to think we’re not as good, but they’re so awesome and including us in everything and ask our opinion about things. They listen to all the ideas that we put out there.”

The production also features Drew Livingston’s original songs including the haunting The River at the End of the Road.

What: The River at the End of the Road

When: 9 – 17 March 2018

Where: Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre

Full ticket details and bookings: