A PLAY that created a public furore when first released – and is now regarded as an Australian classic – comes to the Old Mill Theatre this October.
Written by Fremantle-born Alan Seymour and directed by Brendan Ellis, The One Day of the Year follows the Cook family during the week of Anzac Day and, while family patriarch Alf sees it as the one time of year old Diggers can get together and be commemorated, his son Hughie regards it merely as an excuse for them all to get drunk.
The play raises poignant questions about class, education, inter-generational communication, free expression, respect for people and history and attitudes towards war.
First performed in 1960, The One Day of the Year was rejected at the time by the Adelaide Festival of Arts for its supposed anti-military stance.
On Anzac Day 1961, during the dress rehearsal for its opening at Sydney’s Palace Theatre, there was a bomb scare and police were forced to close the theatre for 24 hours.
Seymour, who was educated at Perth Modern School and worked at radio 6PM, received death threats and was labelled a communist sympathiser and un-Australian. He died earlier this year in March.
“On the outside, The One Day of the Year examines Anzac Day and its meaning to the Australian culture,” director Brendan Ellis said.
“But when you look deeper you can see it explores the universal rift between the previous generation and the next – what values should be discarded and what stays relevant and which direction should we as a nation, and a society, head towards?”
Ellis said the main challenges stem from the fact the play was written in the late 1950s and whether some of the issues raised remain in the 21st century.
“On the 100-year anniversary of Gallipolli, how many of the points raised still apply?” he said. “And how many members of the audience will relate to the subject matter?
“The talented actors and I have put a lot of thought and work into helping audiences recognise the relevance this play still holds.”
Involved in theatre for more than 10 years, Ellis has appeared with Stirling, Playlovers, Marloo, Melville, Garrick and Groovy Boots Theatres and ARENAarts in productions such as Maskerade, Miranda and Twelve Angry Men, among many others.
He directed David Williamson’s A Conversation at the Old Mill Theatre in 2013, winning the annual Milly Award for best director and best production, and also directed Ninety at Garrick Theatre in 2014, another best production winner.
“When Alan Seymour first wrote The One Day of the Year in the late ’50s, it was banned from public performance due its controversial subject matter, as deemed at the time,” Ellis said.
“Interestingly, it has since been recognised as one of the first Australian-written plays that actually deals with uniquely Australian issues.
“For a piece that received such animosity to now become so renowned and historically important is an amazing feat and I feel honoured to be able to direct it.”
The One Day of the Year plays at 8pm October 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23 and 24 with a 2pm matinee October 18. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at http://oldmilltheatre.com.au/tickets or on (08) 9367 8719.
It is the sixth show in a year of all-Australian plays at the Old Mill Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing in 2015.
The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).
one day-1: Chris Henderson, left, Val Henry and Tom Rees are appearing in The One Day of the Year at the Old Mill Theatre.
one day-2: Things get heated between father and son – Alf (Chris Henderson) and Hughie (Matt Randall) – in The One Day of the Year.
one day-3: The One Day of the Year features Tom Rees, left, Chris Henderson, Val Henry and Matt Randall exploring the conflict between generations in relation to Anzac Day.
one day5: Hughie (Matt Randall) and girlfriend Jan (Carmen Miles) set out to expose the drunk underbelly of Anzac Day in the late 1950s in The One Day of the Year.
Old Mill Theatre
South Perth's Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to be operating out of one of the most historic buildings in South Perth. It was opened in 1899 as a Mechanics' Institute Hall. The South Perth Council purchased the building in 1913 and renamed it the Mends Street Hall. The council still owns the building, and supports our use of it.
The building first became a home of theatre in 1948, when the South Perth Dramatic Society moved in. The name Old Mill Theatre was first used in 1958, and the company was incorporated in 1959. In 2009, the theatre celebrated its 60th anniversary.
A number of significant changes to the building have occurred over the past few years, with major extensions completed in 2002. An understage tunnel, which links two backstage dressing rooms and enables easier access from one side of the stage to the other, was completed in 2008. Bathroom facilities have also been installed backstage as part of this project, which was wholly self-funded.
The Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to have strong support from its local council, the City of South Perth. The city undertook major renovations to the exterior of the building in 2008 and the theatre is looking better now than ever before.
P: 0430 171 055