How Those Absolutely Silly Old Buggers got moving at last

From the germ of an idea to playing a fortnight in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has been a long and exhausting journey of more than three years. Over that time, there have been many people who have given freely of their time and support and need to be thanked.

The Husband

First is the writer’s husband, Geoff Senior, who has lived through the whole period of ups and downs, cheers and tears, and is to be congratulated for staying sane and continuing to make valuable contributions.

The Theatre Group

Then there’s the group of actors/singers from the Camperdown Theatre company who gave the script a reading and recorded a few of the songs in the very early stages: Lyn, Sandra, Andrew, Peter, Pauline, Jo, and pianist Judy. Thanks to them all for giving their time and talents to bringing the script to life. And thanks to Roger, the recording technician who also contributed his time and expertise.

The Workshops

Pic of Schoolhouse

The “Little Old Schoolhouse” at Laverton where the first major workshops were held.

In August, 2006, the first of two intensive workshops was held with a director, a musical director and a cast of four very experienced performers.

Our director was Wayne Pearn, a highly respected director in the Melbourne theatre scene who runs the independent theatre company, Hoy Polloy. Based in the Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Complex (MIPAC), Brunswick, Hoy Polloy is dedicated to producing contemporary plays often ignored by mainstream companies. The company also produces quality new works from Australian playwrights, their most recent new Australian production being “The Real Thring” in September, 2008. You can read all about Hoy Polloy here.

Wayne receives our sincere thanks for his belief in the script and his willingness to put time and energy into developing it.

The Musical Director

Workshops Musical Director, Michael Downes, is definitely in the silly old buggers category. For more years than he can count, Mike has been playing for musicals and working as MD for a number of Melbourne’s Music-theatre Companies. For Absolutely Silly Old Buggers, he managed to play from an incredible confusion of sheet music – some downloaded from the internet, some found mouldering in old piano stools and some discovered in collections of ‘community singing’ books. Many thanks to Mike for his ability to cope with changes of key, changes of tempo and the changing temperaments of everyone.

Pic of actors at desks

“Sit up straight! Hands on desks!”
Being in an old school-room, Wayne just had to take on the school-teacher role.

The Stand-ins

When one of our actors was suddenly unable to appear at the Brunswick public reading/singing at MIPAC, we had to have not one stand-in but TWO. Director Wayne doesn’t sing – well, not publicly – and Mike, our MD, sings beautifully but had to stay at the piano. So with Wayne onstage playing the role and Mike doing the singing from the keyboard, we just managed to scrape through. But it was a hairy and stressful experience! Both performed well above and beyond the call of duty and deserve not only our eternal gratitude but a couple of gold medals as well.

Pic of line-up

“The class photo”
Gillian, Les, Roger, Mike, Maggie, Eve, Wayne.

The Cast

The cast for the workshops was almost the same as the one we have for performance in the Comedy Festival – and you can read their bios on our cast page. Every one of them gave unstintingly of their time and talents to make the script the best it could possibly be. The only one not playing with us in the Comedy Festival is the lovely Eve Park. Eve has had wide experience in Community Theatre and created a delightful character for Helen. She was always there with her cheery smile and dedication and we will always be grateful for her contribution to those hectic and hilarious days of workshopping.

The Public Readings

Two public ‘performances’ were held during the workshopping period. The first one was at Williamstown Little Theatre to an enthusiastic audience of about fifty. In the following few weeks there was some re-writing and a bit more development of the script, then another weekend of workshopping and a public ‘performance’ in Hoy Polloy’s home theatre, MIPAC in Brunswick, to an audience of around 60 people. Both performances were followed by a discussion forum with the audience which was very valuable to all involved.

The Outcome

Enthusiasm, belief in the script, a determination that it should go further – all this and more came from cast, crew and audiences. You can read some of the audience comments on this website.

So now it’s in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – the third largest comedy festival in the world – and is out there for YOUR judgement.

What does the future hold?

In the original concept, Silly Old Buggers has two acts of approximately 40-45 minutes each and, in both development workshops, was presented with a 20 minute interval.

Absolutely Silly Old Buggers for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a 60-minute “showcase” of this.

The longer version has additional verses, extra songs and a little more plot and character development.

This means we have a couple of options for our future – a short, sharp show for touring suburban venues or a complete evening’s performance for a commercial production.

The team is seeking investment and expressions of interest to take the show to the next level. Interested parties are invited to contact: gwadds (at)