WHEN Newcastle university student Tyler Atcheson decided to write a full-length play he had five ideas for a storyline. Unable to choose between them, he decided to incorporate all the concepts into one play.
The result, Hermit Crabs and Meteors, is being staged by youth-oriented company Bearfoot Theatre at Newcastle’s Royal Exchange Theatre from March 7 to 10.
The play’s central character is Eugene, played by Harry Lyddiard, who lives by himself and doesn’t interact with his neighbours. Eugene has a pet hermit crab, which disappears when a meteor comes through his roof and lands on his coffee table.
Four very different people come to his house, with most of them attracted by the sound of the falling meteor. Gill (Savannah Geddes) is a wide-eyed and very eccentric woman. Emilio (Annie McLoughlin) is an energetic teenager who loves to know everyone’s business. Sandra (Allison Van Gaal) is a woman who fixes roofs but would rather fix people’s personal problems. And Mr Codsfish (Phil McGrath) is a pompous neighbour with an eye for the avant-garde.
Eugene has a pet hermit crab, which disappears when a meteor comes through his roof.
The production’s director, Riley McLean, points to the show as being one for people of all ages. He notes that it’s very much like Alice in Wonderland, with the central character finding himself meeting colourfully disparate people after the crash. It also looks in its brisk one hour running time at issues including friendship, and the need to follow your dreams.
Writer Tyler Atcheson admits that he has always liked science fiction and space elements. But, living near a beach, he has also been scared of hermit crabs since his childhood.
While the play’s hermit crab, which has often run around the table top, seems to have disappeared, watchers get a chance to see the colourful creature. The meteor has glowing colours, mainly orange, which often flash when it speaks to Eugene, using a variety of human voices.
Allison Van Gaal and Phil McGrath provide these very different voices, with the characters including a childhood pet snake and rat (with those two also making appearances).
The actors see their characters as very engaging people, and reminding them of people they have known.
Harry Lyddiard says that Eugene does the same things every day and is lonely, but when the meteor crashes into his house it literally and figuratively brings down the walls and leads to him telling those who come to the house everything he does during the day.
Savannah Geddes sees Gill as being very wide-eyed, but very passionate about what she does, such as cleaning up beaches. And she helps Eugene to come out of his shell. Annie McLoughlin points to Emilio being energetic, happy and in your face, but, at times being very annoying, as when she bickers with Eugene.
Allison Van Gaal views the play as very well written, with the characters other than Eugene being larger than life and Eugene learning a different thing from each of them. Phil McGrath says that Mr Codsfish is more aesthete than he initially seems to be – and is shown to have a surprise relationship with one of the other characters.
Writing Hermit Crabs and Meteors marks a significant change in Tyler Atcheson’s involvement in theatre. His first experience working in theatre was as a member in 2015 of the technical crew of Eclectic Productions, the initial company founded by the members of Bearfoot Theatre which is more professional in its stagings. Since Bearfoot was established in 2017, he has been sound operator for all the company’s productions. He has also worked with other companies that involve young people, writing a short play, Microwave, for the 2017 edition of Tantrum Youth Arts annual Hissyfest 10-minute-play festival, and directing a play in the 2018 Hissyfest.
Bearfoot Theatre has won national recognition for its theatre works. 2018’s I Hope It’s Not Raining in London, written by Nicholas Thoroughgood, who is now a student at Melbourne’s 16th Street Acting Studio, will be presented in a revised version at WEA Hunter’s Creative Arts Space Theatre in Hamilton in July, followed by Sydney and Melbourne seasons.
Hermit Crabs and Meteors will be staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre, in Bolton Street, Newcastle, nightly from Thursday, March 7, to Sunday, March 10, at 7pm, plus 2pm Saturday and Sunday matinees. Tickets: $20; student, pensioner and child concessions $15. Bookings: trybooking.com.
FORT Scratchley Historical Society’s annual Music of the Guns concert presentation, which features the Australian Army Band Newcastle and, this year, Newcastle Grammar School’s symphony orchestra, will be staged on the fort’s parade ground on Saturday, March 9, from 6.30pm-8.30pm, culminating with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which literally climaxes with cannon fire, making the fort’s guns part of the show. The fort’s carbon arc searchlight will also illuminate Newcastle Cathedral at the climax.
The lineage of the Australian Army Band Newcastle can be traced through various army reserve units based in Newcastle, making it one of Australia's oldest military bands, that has served almost continuously since 1870. Newcastle Grammar School symphony orchestra has 50 student musicians.
Families and friends should bring picnic food and a small chair or rug. Gates open at 5.30pm. Entry is $25, or $30 if people want to borrow a chair. Civic Theatre box-office, 4929 1977.
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