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Journeys : Feb March 2010
The first place I saw Australia's longest- r unning play was on an outdoor stage next to Hobart's Victoria Dock, not in its usual home base of Strahan. It was a sparkling Tasmanian summer afternoon when playw right Richard Davey brought The Ship That Never Was to the city. I can't recall whether the event was an early Australasian Wooden Boat Festival or the Bicentennial Tall Ships celebration, but the waterfront that day was a forest of masts and spars, with halyards slapping and chattering and a brisk sea breeze whistling through rigging. At a cr ucial point in the play, the convict shipbuilders, who have stolen the Freder ick from its Sarah Island slipyard, hoist the sails and escape from their Macquarie Harbour prison. The set designer had created a clever and lightweight contraption of plastic pipes, ropes and canvas to represent the ship's rig. It lay flat on the stage until Richard roared out an order. The crew hauled -- up rose the masts, ropes tightened and the sails filled with a snap. It was a dramatic piece of stagecraft and the audience burst into spontaneous applause. But there was unexpected drama to come. The breeze suddenly freshened and a strong gust hissed in from the river. On the Der went, yachts heeled over and whitecaps raced across the water. On the stage, the Frede rick's rigging crashed dow n and the crew tumbled over each other as they battled to stop the whole set being picked up by the wind and tossed into Victoria Dock. But the author saved the day -- and the play. Standing tall among the w reckage, Richard Davey conjured up some impromptu lines to cover the situation. Through his shouted orders, the delighted audience heard that the Freder ick must have foundered on an uncharted reef! Responding with their ow n unscripted contributions, the crew scrambled to clear the tackle and get the jumble back into shape; the bosun tossed in an ad-lib hull inspection and reported no major damage; the ship somehow slid off the treacherous rocks -- and before long, the show, as shows must, could go on. The Ship That Never Was has been an essential part of a visit to Strahan since the early 1990s, when it began its record- breaking, non-stop r un. The hour-long 5.30pm show by the Round Earth Company at the Strahan Visitor Centre Amphitheatre draws enthusiastic audiences every day and there are special performances on Sarah Island itself, close to the rem ains of the slipyard where the Freder ick was built in 1834. Over the years, cast members have come and gone, the script has evolved and the sets have developed -- but Richard Davey's story of the last ship launched from the West Coast's prison island is as fresh, fascinating and funny as ever. Next time you're in Strahan, don't miss it! www.roundearth.com.au Tourism Tasmania and Rick Eaves Tourism Tasmania and Joe Shemesh Sarah Island Penitentiary Sarah Island interpretive tour 45 February / March 10
Dec Jan 2010
April May 2010