Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 - Arena Arts & Entertainment
ARENA Arts and Entertainment is immersing itself in the world of Jane Austen this October, bringing her first novel Northanger Abbey to life on stage.

Directed by Theo Messenger, he said he was captured by the humour of the story and the parody of Gothic literature.

“Being married means being exposed to Jane Austen,” he said. “More and more, she becomes hard to avoid, especially as there seems to be something of an Austen revival in our present age.

“My education began with watching several versions of Pride and Prejudice, Becoming Jane and then a spate of newly-made BBC movie versions of Austen novels, including Northanger Abbey.

“There’s something captivating about the charm and wit of Austen and Northanger Abbey takes this to a merry extreme.

“In this stage version, I wanted to create the contrast between the horror of the Abbey in the story and the pleasantries more often associated with Austen.”

Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who leads a plain life and finds refuge in books – but when she is invited to the mysterious Northanger Abbey, her imagination takes hold and she suspects a great crime has been committed.

Messenger said, despite the Gothic parodies, the play was both funny and endearing while poking fun at the imagination.

“It asks why we need to make life more interesting when our lives are complex enough,” he said. “It’s easy to see our own culture and society in the characters of this play and it’s bound to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“The texts that Jane Austen mocks are a cross between Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and Mills and Boon with plenty of charm, sarcasm and romance in the mix.”

Messenger has been acting from a young age and studied drama, touring theatre to schools for the past 3½ years with Fine Edge Theatre and Arena Arts and Entertainment. Over the past two years he has also appeared in Going Postal, Rain, Bannockburn! and The Venetian Twins, which scored him a best actor nomination at the 2008 Finley Awards.

He believes his biggest challenge with Northanger Abbey is the high standard of sound and lighting he plans to use in creating various locations and switching between reality and imagination.

“The adaptation we are using moves quite swiftly from scene to scene with very few breaks,” he said. “This technique, while very interesting, means my actors have to continue their performances without rest.”

Northanger Abbey plays at South Perth’s Old Mill Theatre at 8pm, October 2, 3, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 and 17 with 2pm matinees on October 4 and 11 and Hamilton Hill’s Phoenix Theatre at 8pm, October 29, 30 and 31. Tickets are $20, $15 concession – bookings on (08) 9362 4080 or [email protected]

The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel) while Phoenix Theatre is on the corner of Rockingham Road and Carrington Street, within the Hamilton Hill Memorial Hall.

CAPTIONS
northanger.jpeg: Jordan Sibley as James Morland and Frederick Tilney, Jess Messenger as Isabela Thorpe, Michelle Berg as Catherine Morland and Tim Burrows (John Thorpe) in Northanger Abbey this October.

northanger4.jpeg: Jess Messenger as Isabela Thorpe, Michelle Berg as Catherine Morland and Jesse Way in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

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Arena Arts & Entertainment


Arena Arts & Entertainment Inc is an independent arts co-operative based in Perth, Western Australia.

We were founded in 1988. Several theatre graduates looked at the state of the arts in Perth at the time and were faced with the options of heading off to make a career in the eastern states, or sitting on our backsides and just whining about everything, or getting off our bums and creating something for ourselves. Being the rather enthused but somewhat stupid folk we were then, we chose the latter option. After a lot of organisation, we started working on some arts projects that interested us, drawing in others as were needed. We became an incorporated association in 1989.

Most of our work has been in the area of Theatre For Schools, as this is where the interests of our creative people have largely been. Here, we provide theatre productions and skills workshops tailored to the needs and interests of W.A. schools. These projects are part of our professional "wing of operations" with each project working as its own independent co-operative. We have a 100% track record of presenting original West Australian works for West Australian audiences. A lot of these projects have been ground-breaking productions, creating a very different way of presenting educational entertainments at schools. This unique ARENA style is one that has sometimes been copied by others. Rather flattering, really.

Our other work includes such things as entertainment at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th World Swimming Championships, projects for advertising companies, involvement in OzConcerts, award-winning entries in the W.A. State Drama Festival, a comedy radio series for ArtRage, performances at shopping centres as well as Youth Festivals and Environment Festivals, shows for the Perth Zoo, Public Speaking Workshops, Writing Workshops, Mime Workshops, Drama Workshops, tours to Esperance, support for regional and interstate storytelling, workshops in detention centres and for Youth at Risk, and shows for Seniors and People with Disabilities. And of course, our recent Community Theatre productions Wyrd Sisters, Lords & Ladies, Doctor Who:Hellblossom, Carpe Jugulum, Monstrous Regiment, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Temporo, Santa's Space Christmas and Going Postal.

ARENA's overall aims are:

•to provide affordable theatre and arts projects for new and existing audiences
•to provide creative and financial opportunities for those working in the arts industry
•to promote local "grass roots" theatre

Since 1988, we have produced over 150 Arts projects, which have had over 4200 performances, for an audience in excess of 990 000 people.

As well as producing the works of people currently involved in ARENA, we always welcome others who have Theatre For Schools ideas, or indeed, for any type of production, to come forward with their plans. We may be able to offer personnel, financial and resource support to help those projects become a reality.

Although many things have changed in ARENA over the years, it continues to not only survive, but thrive. We have recently scaled back our Theatre For Schools operations in favour of more Community Theatre projects. We never intended to be solely a Theatre For Schools co-operative, although we will continue to provide the very best that these projects demand. Now, however, we are looking to expand into other areas of the arts and entertainment.
Theo Messenger
P: 0417 989 409
W: www.arenaentertainment.com.au/

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Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey on stage this October.

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