Friday, May 18, 2012

Frankly, it’s Time to throw down the Gauntlett

Spot the crazed killer? Top actor-manager Alfred Dampier, Frederick Deeming (middle) and mild-mannered Sydney actor Patrick Trumper. If you thought Mr Trumper was Deeming I imagine he would be more than happy.

Old chum Francis A. Gauntlett sat in the court of public opinion at the Three Blackbirds as Old Father Time donned a black cap he had bought from the Army and Navy stores for a fiver.

Heaving a Guinness, that someone else had bought, the judge read out the charges, which included being over-the-top (OTT) with malice of forethought and pinching all the verbal space.

Before said judge could dip his lid, and call time on around another round of the black gold, the dark hairy fellow had done a hop, skip and jump of Olympian proportions and landed in the colonies.

The blaggard had shaken off the shackles of the Old Country, without so much as a ticket of leave, and found a journalistic bolt hole at a time when hacking was still thought to be a type of persistent cough.

Gauntlett and wife, Pirate Jenny, now call Old Sydney Town home as long-suffering spouse combs the country searching for new ideas and Frank dips his quill into the fountain of strewth.

The results over the past couple of decades have included books, plays and strange little doodles on beer mats his probation officer puts down to some malfunction in his early toilet training.

Among the most lasting contributions to the human cannon of misfired shots in the literary dark are a musical adaptation of the story of the little boy who wouldn’t grow up, Peter Pan, a salute with Bunny Gibson to veteran Australian actor and occasional abstainer, John Meillon, and a theatrical fine tuning of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

Now Frank, with whom I have shared the occasional Bacchanal, is having a go at reality, which is something that thus far has tended to elude him in this life-time.

The result is a recreation of a magically theatrical time in the history of the colony, when the celebrated actor-manager, Alfred Dampier (For the Term of His Natural Life) walked the boards looking for a curtain raiser at the Alexandra Theatre (later Her Majesty’s).

Dampier couldn’t fail to notice that one Frederick Bailey Deeming was drawing huge crowds for his 1892 production of ‘How I Murdered the Wife and Kids.’

Deeming was a serial killer, who made sinners feel like saints as his evil deeds came to light, and we do know that in true Victorian Underbelly style that inspired the Dampier melodrama Willful Murder!

See more on Deeming :

Gauntlett- the cunning old fox – has weaved a tale of the past and present as ‘orrible murders morph into TV’s modern assault on our sensibilities as in the world of Big Brother, The Block and Masterchef.

Gauntlett’s play Deeming paints a picture of Dampier as a reality pioneer, creating theatre out of tragedy, as horrific facts come to light on a day to day basis.

I’m popping down to Old Sydney Town to catch the play – and hopefully a cup of Guinness kindness for the sake of Old Lang Syne - when it opens at the King Street Theatre, Newtown, next week.

The production, which features Patrick Trumper (The Magic Pudding), Emily Stewart (Cops LAC) and Anthony Hunt (Woyzeck) under the direction of Steven Hopley (Theatre of Blood and The Sydney Shakespeare Company) runs May 22-June 3 Tues-Sat.

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