Friday, May 27, 2011

Silver Ship soon to sail

A new play is soon to open. Book your tickets now to Silver Ship: The life and short times of Mary Wollstonecraft, if you are fortunate enough to live near  Wellington, New Zealand. It is written and directed by an Englishman now of Victoria University  and is to feature some exciting "state-of-the-art theatre technology" (dea ex machina or what?).
The play is written and directed by John Downie, Senior Lecturer in Theatre at Victoria and performed and designed by third year Theatre students. It will also showcase the Theatre programme's new LED (light-emitting diode) lights, as well as the work of the steel welder, a new addition to the programme's Scenography course.
Director John Downie says that Silver Ship is a story of the past and present, fiction and reality.
"I was interested in creating an opportunity for students to access the explosive revolutionary period of the late 18th century that created the basis of our present-day social democracies and the sensibility of modern individualism."
In the play, a group of present-day students is researching the concept of 'becoming-woman', when a spectre materialises in their midst. It is Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century British writer, philosopher and passionate advocate of women’s rights. Silver Ship follows two intertwining strands of story; the ongoing concepts of 'becoming' in modern society, and the life of an incredible woman.
"By contrasting the life of a women who lived in revolutionary times with those of present-day students, the play brings into question how our ancestors experience informs our future, like a kind of haunting," says Downie.
The play is a collaboration of efforts by third year Victoria Theatre performance and design students, and features choreography by Alyx Duncan, an original soundscape by Victoria graduates and award-winning sound designers Andrew Simpson and Gareth Hobbs, live film, steel sets and LED lighting.
All very exciting. I wonder if John Downie knows of Becoming Mary Wollstonecraft, the Facebook page setup by the American poet and novelist Nancy Means Wright? A practical angle appeals: the play charges admission for tickets at $15 for waged people and $8 for  unwaged; and better yet, the writer-director offers a short lecture on Mary just before each performance -- for free, all welcome. Commendable.
He says Wollstonecraft was an extraordinary woman, with a life full of complexity and contrasts.
"She had a lover who was an American secret service agent and a husband who was an anarchist philosopher.  She had her hands on a fortune, but remained poor all her life. She wrote the first modern text advocating the rights of women."
 Now, I know full well that most of the people in the world who would love to see this are simply nowhere near New Zealand, and I do hope that Downie & team document their work well, so that we all may be enlightened and inspired in turn.

[See also the American play The Rights (and Wrongs) of Mary Wollstonecraft.]


  1. Hi! I was a member of the cast involved in the production of Silver Ship and also worked in publicity for it, it was so exciting to find this blog!

  2. Clare, delighted to hear from you. I've had an email from John Downie too. Would you like to write about the experience of being involved with Silver Ship? Email me if you do (see the "me" page). Or do you know of a published review? Add the link to another comment. I'd love to hear more.