Mad Cat – a joyous beginning

THEATRE is alive and well … which is attested to by the fact that, along with the established companies, new ones are still emerging. And one of these is Mad Cat Theatre Company. Mad Cat (Music and Dance, Comedy and Theatre) springs from the St Dunstan’s Rep Circle; under which umbrella Mad Cat’s first two productions, in 2014 and 2015, were staged.

The enthusiasm of Joanna Buddee and Marianne Duane for the company they’ve helped create is infectious as they tell of the plunge into the deep end they experienced as not only writers of the original music and lyrics for 2016’s show Baba Yaga, but also producing, directing, costumes and marketing. Why such a plunge?

“David and Jess (Hewitson-Kerr), who revived St Dunstan’s Rep Circle in 2014, are moving to South Australia,” says Joanna. “So this year Marianne and I took the helm. We co-directed Baba Yaga as well as starring in it – though we didn’t cast ourselves!

Vasilisa is captured by some evil sprites during Baba Yaga
Vasilisa in Baba Yaga

“With this production we decided to take it to the next level – to change the name and also the venue. The quality of our shows just keeps improving. The last three shows have all been original scripts. David was the playwright of those and then Marianne and I wrote the music to Baba Yaga. We had an extremely talented cast of 20 in Baba Yaga, the majority from the Boroondara area – especially Hartwell Primary School. We performed at Kew Renaissance Theatre, which is part of Kew High School. Four hundred and fifty people came to see Baba Yaga and they loved it! We feel exceptionally proud”.

 

Anyone who has been in a play knows that, even in the best-run productions, things go wrong. Joanna has an example to share:

“The worst mistake was something I did. I had my song – and it was opening night – and it was so well received I was just in shock at the applause. I got off stage in a bit of a daze and then went to the dressing room and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh! That was amazing!’ Then I stopped for a minute because I knew I had a quick change as I was going from my main character, Dunyasha, to become a sprite. ‘Quick,’ I said to myself. ‘Pull it together. You’ve got a quick change’. “So I got dressed as a sprite; then one of the other actors came in and she went ‘aren’t you meant to be on stage now as Dunyasha?’ I (swore!) and flung the Dunyasha cloak over the sprite costume. I had no shoes on, but my skirt was really long. Then I went on like that! It wasn’t my full flamboyant character because I was trying not to show that I didn’t have the right outfit on, but actually no one noticed!”

Marianne remembers another story:

“We also had a major change the night before the opening. We didn’t realise that a costume change was actually too difficult. The witch, Baba Yaga, had a scene where there is a great big fight, with smoke and special effects and then she disappears, presumably dead, but then shortly afterwards has a big confrontational scene in which she is revealed as (spoiler alert) the herione’s mother. But there was simply not enough time in between the big stand-off and the reveal, so we had to re-write stuff just before Opening Night … in the end we pre-recorded a whole speech and had it coming over the speakers – and it worked better than the original idea!”

Twenty-sixteen was the year of Baba Yaga (though it hasn’t necessarily breathed its last), but already next year is under consideration, with one major production planned, as well as a children’s workshop in the summer holidays under the Mad Cat name. Mad Cat Theatre pride themselves on being inclusive, so anyone interested in being involved either on-stage or off, or in the workshops, are invited to like their facebook page or email them: madcattheatre1@gmail.com

Chris Gray
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