|Premiere||26th February, 1992|
|Venue||George Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre|
ASK FOR THE CAPTAIN explored the life of the poet T.S. Elliot based on his autobiographical poem The Wasteland, published in 1922.
It was an ambitious undertaking for David Baird newly appointed Artistic Director at Handspan. The play was written by his wife Ljiljana Ortolja, and he composed its music and directed the production.
ASK FOR THE CAPTAIN's script ideas were dense and its design and imagery even denser and more complex.
In the play Eliot was represented as a puppet, initially a boy, and then a man. Ezra Pound was portrayed as his manipulator who influenced his ideas, his behaviour and his emotions. Eliot's wife, Vivienne appeared as a clawing harpy, Blind Tiresias was played as a street performer and the Hyacinth Girl as a Salvation Army Officer.
Following the narrative of the poem, Eliot embarked on his journey to redemption. He flew over the city of London by boat; dug sandcastles and encountered the knights of the Holy Grail on Margate Beach. he capsized and plunged to the seabed where he met his New England ancestors; and returned to shore to meet Madame Sosotris to be told his fortune.
The production featured close to life-size Bunraku-style puppets with highly realistic carved heads and hands. The puppeteers, visible to the audience, played dual roles, each an actor-character as well manipulator of puppets within the story. Image designs referenced the work of other artists. The stage was crammed with imagery but some of its reference points were obscure and their multitude meant that they remained static for much of their time on stage despite the scale of the cast.
ASK FOR THE CAPTAIN was under considerable pressure to succeed. Billing advertised that it was a new work by the company that had created Secrets and Cho Cho San, and it was much anticipated as the first work in a new era for the company.
Unfortunately the production was not a success:
The Victorian Curriculum Assessment Board included the production in the1992 final year drama students Review Options List both for its stylistic curiosity and its introduction to Eliot and his work. It proved a popular choice but left students confused.
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|27 February – 14 March||George Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre|
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