Meet the Cast of The Hatpin
The Regals Musical Society (Sydney, NSW) bring The Hatpin to St George Bank Auditorium from October 12. Their new base in Kogarah is ideally suited to this intimate musical that retells one of Australia’s most gripping crime stories.
Set in Sydney, 1892, the production is based on the true story of John and Sarah Makin,whofirst came to police attention when a workman made the grisly discovery of two baby bodies in the backyard of a home in Macdonaldtown. Further investigation into the Makins revealed another 13 bodies buried in eleven different backyards where the Makins had lived since 1890.
At the centre of this story is Amber Murray, the woman who chose to fight against social prejudice and injustice. “Amber Murray is an incredible character,” says director Meg Day “she’s placed in an unthinkable position and yet every decision and choice she makes is made for what she thinks is the best for her son.”
The musical explores the themes of grief, despair, betrayal and regret, but it also embraces the themes of hope and friendship.
Stage Whispers spoke with director Meg Day, Tanya Boyle (Amber Murray), Virginia Natolli (Harriet Piper) and Katherine Cassidy (Agatha Makin).
Stage Whispers: Meg, you’re once again slipping into the Director’s chair for another powerful and, some may say, dark production. Based on the success of previous productions you have directed for Regals what can audiences expect from you this time?
Meg: This show is really about the characters and their stories. So audiences can expect a show which is focused purely on creating real characters and raw emotions. Our rehearsal process has really concentrated on every performer’s character (or characters, in the case of the ensemble). The decisions we have made as a production team have always been based on telling Amber’s story. For example, production elements such as lighting and set have all been designed to act as emotional backdrops to the story. It is our hope that the audience will be swept up in, and feel a part of, Amber’s journey.
Stage Whispers: Tanya, we’ve been seeing a lot from you lately in such a variety of different productions. How does the role of Amber compare to the likes of your fun characters from Regals’ more recent production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change?
Tanya: It’s definitely a new challenge for me to play a more serious role, especially one that is based on a true story. In past shows I have been able to rely on humor and character acting to get into my roles. Amber is such a real character that all her scenes need to come from an honest and genuine place. I also spend 90% of the show onstage, which makes it easy to stay completely in character.
Stage Whispers: We hear from those “serious” actors of the world that at times they get lost in their characters darkest moments. Knowing what Amber Murray endured, are you finding it a challenge to lift your spirits when rehearsals are done for the day?
Tanya: That’s an understatement! I find myself getting so caught up in the emotional journey that Amber goes through in the show that I am thoroughly drained at the end of each rehearsal!
Stage Whispers: Virginia, your character could be described as the one who brings a bit of humor and lightheartedness to the audience. What do you find are the most difficult moments for Harriet and how do you approach this when injecting your own humor?
Virgina: Harriet is a pioneer of her time. Being an unmarried, independent fruit shop owner in the 1890s would have most likely seen her ostracized by most members of the community. So Harriet has had to learn to become self-sufficient and tough. Although Harriet wants to be, and is, supportive of Amber, being strong for her comes naturally. It is difficult for her to open up to Amber emotionally and so her coping mechanism is humour, which is often awkward when dealing with the horrible circumstances that Amber finds herself in. I often find myself hilarious when others don’t, so this hasn’t been too much of a stretch.
Stage Whispers: This clearly comes naturally to you with your upbeat nature! In comparison to Tanya, how do you maintain the supportive role of Harriet?
Virginia: As Harriet says in the show, ‘this will be done with luv, a day at a time, for all of it, I’m here.’ So I try to keep this in mind, through the duration of the show. Harriet is fiercely loyal and she has a great respect for Amber, although Amber appears not to be as ‘strong’ as Harriet, she too is a pioneer of her time, standing up for justice and Harriet greatly respects that.
Stage Whispers: Katherine, playing such a dark character in a musical can seem like a strange concept to some. Do you find that James Millar and Peter Rutherford have done this chilling story justice in correctly expressing the darkness of Agatha during a time that was such a struggle for so many women of Australia?
Katherine: Yes. At first I thought what has made this woman so bitter, so cruel? It’s hard to imagine a person with such hatred, but times were hard and something made her who she was. Yet you have to ask, is that an excuse? The writing and music for Agatha is sharp and ugly and so the character really does lift off the page! However, it still takes a great deal of emotional energy to play someone so heartless and cruel.
Stage Whispers: What would you say is your most loved experience of this show thus far?
Katherine: Being able to create Amber’s story for the audience with a talented cast all with the one goal - drawing the audience in to this eerie part of Sydney’s history.
Tanya: The support and closeness of the cast and production team. We all know we have created something special here, and everyone is striving to be the best they can and support the others around them.
Meg: Definitely working with such an amazing cast and production team. We ran the show twice last Sunday (September 30), and despite the fact that there were costumes missing, there was no set and minimal props, the story came to life. There was a clear transformation in the cast and they became the characters. It was a testimony to their hard work and it was a really gratifying and definitive moment for me. As Tanya said, we have created something special and I’m really proud of our creation.
The Regals production of The Hatpin opens October 12th 2012 St George Bank Auditorium, Kogarah. For bookings visit www.theregals.com.au
Preview video from Dress Rehearsal