The Women of Wisemans is Convict Footprints’ first all-female show and incidentally the first time for this company to be performing one of their shows inside in a ‘fancy’ theatre.
The barn at Bella Vista Farm or the structures around Heritage Park are where they can more often be found with their unique ‘Theatre-in-the-Wild’ style.
Indeed, the premiere of Women of Wisemans was under a sunset and starry night at the inaugural ‘Wisemans Colonial Weekend’ in a natural amphitheatre overlooking the very river Solomon Wiseman himself established his livelihood around.
The show itself is written in classic Victorian melodrama style by Convict Footprints resident wordsmith Mr Steven Hopley.
Steven has to date penned 9 productions with Convict Footprints and this is their first one set in the later Victorian period, as well as being their first all-female cast.
“Early colonial history is overwhelmingly masculine, with transportation ensuring a massive gender imbalance. At the time the ferry was built, the European population of Australia was around 80% male,” Hopley said.
“And yet, there was this pocket of pioneering families on the Hawkesbury made up largely of women.
“As I started to read about them, I knew I wanted to focus on these amazing women, whose fascinating stories have largely gone untold – but with the added feminist twist that, in this production, even the male characters would be played by women,” he added.
The 8 female actors, many of whom may be familiar from previous Convict Footprints productions, are playing actors themselves on stage – the ‘women of Wisemans’ being a group of country ladies in 1888 who have come together to tell the story of their town’s dastardly namesake.
And while a lot of controversy surrounds the figure of Solomon Wiseman, this production finds a balance between being faithful to the facts, while also tapping into the legends.
The tagline for the show says it all: “A classic Victorian Melodrama full of love, death, family and ferries… With a body count bigger than Hamlet!“
“We hope the audience will be bringing their best cheers, boos and hisses for this one. Our Solomon Wiseman is very much the archetypal melodrama villain and hopefully the audience will get behind ‘him’ and the ladies most vocally!” Jerry Retford, Convict Footprints Artistic Director, said.
“That was one of the loveliest things about the premiere – we’re in this stunning natural green-grass bowl looking over the Hawkesbury River with Solomon Wiseman’s actual house he built just up the road from us – to perform in these places, bring the actual people and their stories to life – it’s just magical.
“And there’s all the audience sat on rugs or cushions or straw bales and picnic chairs booing and cheering throughout the show – what an atmosphere!” he added.
And they’re looking forward to a similar magic when they open at the Pioneer Theatre for a special ‘one night only’ event on December 15th.
“We’re pretty excited to be coming to play at the Pioneer Theatre. Not only that but for us it’s the first time in an ‘actual’ theatre!” said, Jerry.
“Our ‘Theatre-in-the-Wild’ style is pretty much just that, so our audience is more used to sitting on grass, or walking around a site – for this show they get a fancy velour seat and air conditioned comfort – what’s going on there ?!
“But also, this such a gorgeous and flexible space to perform in, not to mention its pretty much brand – new, how often does one get the chance to perform in a new theatre!
“So we’re hoping the audiences will come and help us make this a magical evening not just with their boos and hisses but also we’re hoping for some well-dressed Patrons too – this is after all, 1888 and a lady and gentleman would never been seen out at evening soiree in anything less than their best evening attire,” he added.
Convict Footprints ‘The Women of Wisemans’ is showing for one night only at the Pioneer Theatre, December 15th.
Victorian dress code encouraged!
Book your tickets now at www.pioneertheatre.com.au.