“When you’re left with nothing, you try and hold on to everything.”
With a tale that will linger with you for a lifetime, the Armidale Drama & Musical Society presents The Hatpin, a compelling new Australian musical of great friendship borne out of tragedy. It is a dramatic thriller that deals with notions of motherhood and companionship under extraordinary pressure and self-liberty.
The Hatpin premiered in Sydney in 2008 and later New York and is based on the true story of Amber Murray, an 18 year old single-mother who lived in Redfern in 1892. In an era where employment and health support for single mothers was scarce and financial support non-existent, Murray, like many young mothers in the same position, was faced with the unthinkable choice of advertising the care of her baby to save his life. Professional child-minders answered the advertisement and would take a payment each week from the desperate mothers of these children in return for their service of care. Using moral support she gains from her friendship with the free spirited Harriet Piper, Amber fights the injustices of circumstance and tragedy to find hope and strength.
The case of Amber Murray and her son led to great reforms for the plight of the single mother and was considered influential in bringing about awareness in Australian society of the need for welfare support and the demand for an Australian Child Protection Act.
The Armidale production is directed by George Torbay with musical direction by Bruce Menzies, the team responsible for the previous sell-out productions of Titanic and Urinetown. With producer Neil Horton, they have brought together a stellar cast that features young soprano Caroline King as Amber and Carol Elder as Harriet Piper, who befriends Amber in her journey for justice. As the evil Makin family, Greg Balcombe and Emily Stocker with her first ADMS role create a wonderfully dark dynamic that introduces Emily Roberts as their sharp-eyed daughter Clara. Other newcomers to ADMS musicals include Mollie Galvin, Jodie Perry and Anita Brown as young mothers who share Amber’s plight. The tight cast of twenty six includes a number of ADMS newcomers, such as Ziggy Harris and Andrew Trestrail, combined with well-known performers such as Stuart Pavel as the Judge, Waine Grafton as Williamson the cold hearted attorney and Will Schmidt as Constable Joyce. The male and female ensemble play a number of supporting roles and form a haunting and mocking Greek chorus throughout the show. The evocative musical score captures the flavour of the time, with the moment and the tale and as ever is under the expert direction of Bruce Menzies and Assistant Musical Director and pianist, Robyn Bradley. Costume design under the craft of Deborah Hunter reflects the darkness and harshness of the period and matches the breathtaking set comprised of twisted catwalks, stairs and cold, dirty drab housing that comes to life under the expert set design and construction led by Pat Bradley, Gordon Cope and Colin Barry.
Opening night is Friday 11 May. You won’t want to miss the story of The Hatpin and its multi-layered characters who take centre stage – and what a story it is! It will give you chills that stay long after the performers have taken their final bow. Poignant and stunning, this acclaimed musical drama will leave you … breathless.
The Hatpin opens from 11 May to 26 May at the Michael Hoskins Centre TAS.
Evenings at 8pm: 11,12,17,18,19, 24, 25 and 26. Matinees at 2pm: 13,19, 20 and 26.
Story by Warren Bartik
Photos by Terry Cooke.