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Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind

Robert E. Lee & Jerome Lawrence

4 - 11 July 2015

Cathryn Parker

Centred on a controversial trial about religious fundamentalism versus the freedom of individual thought this gripping play is not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think.


Performances

Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

Synopsis

After being arrested for teaching evolution to his science classes, Bertram Cates becomes the centre of a controversial trial about religious fundamentalism versus the freedom of individual thought. Lee and Lawrence’s 1955 iconic play Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account loosely based on the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes's conviction for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to a Tennessee state law. This panoramic drama is not an accurate historical account of those events, but a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control and a defence of intellectual freedom. It is as resonant today as it was 60 years ago when it served to highlight the pernicious canker of McCarthyism.

Review

Playwrights and lyricists Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee were an award winning American partnership whose work included numerous radio series and 39 plays written together. In WW2 they established the Armed Forces Radio Network. Their biggest success was Inherit the Wind. Written in 1955, it fictionalises the famous Scopes Monkey Trial and the struggle of a teacher to justify the introduction of Darwinism to his pupils in a God-fearing Mid-West America. The writers used the theme of the play to highlight the contemporary issue of McCarthyism. It remains one of the most widely performed of American plays and in 1960 they adapted the stage version, resulting in an Oscar winning film.

In 1965 they founded the prestigious American Playwrights’ theatre in a bid to bypass the commercialism of Broadway. This timeless, thought-provoking and ambitious play with a cast of approximately 50 was chosen as the last in the LLT season. Skilfully directed by Cathryn Parker with a highly committed ensemble cast and excellent central performances this was an impressive production that did justice to the pedigree and content of the play. Cathryn cast her actors with precision fleshing out a gallery of characters inhabiting the God-fearing town of Hillsboro – an American Mid-West town in a sweltering summer ‘not too long ago’.

From the first scene when the talented young actor Walter Hall walked onto the stage as Howard Blair, with the charming Evie Flynn as Melinda Loomis, the audience felt in safe hands. As the characters populated David Moon’s eye catching, clever, well-designed set it was clear that this was a production where everyone was pulling together to create something special.

Tony Bannister as the evangelical White House candidate Matthew Harrison Brady and Michael Bulman as the charismatic maverick defence lawyer Henry Drummond were perfect sparring partners at the centre of this court room drama. These were two impressive performances, doing full justice to the depth of the issues and emotions and the numerous quotable, beautifully written lines on the subject of the human condition, spirituality and freedom of thought.

Other notable performances included Isabella McCarthy Sommerville as Rachel Brown who sensitively caught the struggle between her respect for her zealous preacher father and her love for Bertram Cates – James Meikle well cast as the principled teacher who had tried to widen the minds of his pupils. I really enjoyed Alan Lade’s performance as Rev. Jeremiah Brown and his fire and brimstone speech. Scott O’Brien as E.K Hornbeck, the reporter who comes to town to cover the trial, was great value as the puckish character who punctuated the unfolding drama in his asides to the audience.

Detailed and concentrated acting by the smaller and non-speaking characters are crucial to this ensemble play and to the creation of an engrossing production. Each and every one of the LLT actors had developed detailed performances and so the necessary atmosphere and drama in each scene was fully captured. I especially want to mention Anna Crabtree who played Mrs Krebs with total commitment, wonderful verve and imaginative skill. It was really encouraging to see so many members of the LLT youth theatre in a main production in the season.

Alison Soudain and Gerry Cortese and their wardrobe crew designed and executed a beautiful, high quality set of costumes for the cast of nearly 50. The choice of incidental music by director Cathryn Parker was delicately and perfectly chosen. I was really glad to see lighting designer Trevor Morgan working with the continued involvement of young members in the sound and lighting department. Cameron Wallis, Charlie Pope and Thomas Sayers are clearly adding to their growing CVs and will, no doubt, achieve their theatrical ambitions.

Once again, LLT has not only produced an impressive and engrossing production made possible the enthusiasm and commitment of its members, but Cathryn Parker’s choice of Inherit the Wind is certainly timely. In an era where the struggle for informed debate and the acceptance of different views seems to touch our everyday lives, it is crucial that these issues are illuminated. As Henry Drummond so rightly says to Bert Cates at the end of the play - “You don’t suppose this kind of thing is ever finished, do you? Tomorrow it’ll be something else – and another fella will have to stand up. And you’ve helped give him the guts to do it”.

Lucy Fitchett

Other Dates

Audition Sat 14 February 2015 10:30am foyer