Orson's Shadow Austin Pendleton

About the play

In May 2021, Glenbrook Players was excited to present Orson's Shadow by Austin Pendleton - the Australian premiere.

Orson's Shadow tells the story of an ill-fated theatrical collaboration based on real events bringing together five iconic figures in the history of stage and screen. These characters can't but help to be entangled in a battle of egos, the tragic decline of a career, the breakdown of a tumultuous marriage and the farcical production of an absurdest play all for the sake of art.

In 1960, acerbic and uncompromising drama critic Kenneth Tynan has decided to convince his friend Orson Welles to direct Sir Laurence Olivier in Ionesco’s newest masterpiece Rhinoceros. Larry plays alongside co-star and future Mrs Oliver Joan Plowright who is more in tune with the new wave of theatre in England whilst the glorified yet deteriorating Vivien Leigh tries to make sense of her own life and marriage to Olivier.

Directors Notes

I love true to life stories about real people, so you can only imagine my luck to discover Orson's Shadow, a play rich in theatre history and Hollywood glamour. The play not only tickled my funny bone but struck a chord with me as a person who has found a deeply passionate second home in the theatre. I hope for our audiences, this play yields not only entertainment but a sense of discovery and insight into the remarkable lives and personal tragedies portrayed.

Afterall, the art of caricature and impression hold a special place in our culture and comedy; So why not stage a play which sets our talented cast the fun task of imitating Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Joan Plowright, and Kenneth Tynan. Adding another gem in the perfect portrayal of Shaun who completes the ensemble by letting audiences feel what it might have been like for us to take part in their chaotic lives. I am forever thankful to the cast for doing justice to it all. It is unforgettable seeing them draw from a raw script in their hands to create many moments that hold you wrapped in a pocket of their world.

Orson's Shadow is a triumph to me in many ways. I feel proud in knowing I succeeded in mounting my first production as a director in the theatre. This is made even more special in knowing it welcomes The Glenbrook Players and our audiences back to the stage after one of the most challenging years faced by not only our members and this postponed production but the population at large during a pandemic which is still a reality to this day.

Special thanks to Ian Bate stage managing the show who has contributed his own wealth of experience from teaching and theatre craft to help shape our approach to the process during rehearsal. Also, Rosie Crossing who has been a consultant since day one never being short of advice or losing faith. Our backstage crew, Gabriel Pope, Ruth Thompson, Lara Campbell, lighting expert Samantha Hardaker and Emily Hampson on sound are all amazing. With love I acknowledge my partner Christopher who helped me every step of the way and remained at my side weathering the storm together when it seemed we might not have a show. I have learnt so much from everyone. I could not have done it without any of you. We hope you enjoy our show having been fortunate in belonging to the play’s Australian premiere audiences.

- Joshua Stojanovic

A note on the design

Simplicity was my original impetus to have picked this comedic, dialogue driven play with a small cast, two settings and basic design brief of people doing business and making theatre backstage or in the rehearsal room in 1960 with the added flair of a journey to Notley Abbey. Of course, creating simplicity can surprisingly be the more difficult task. Having a supportive creative team, we shared an unshakable confidence spanning an eighteen-month bumpy road.

Stewart MacPherson has masterfully constructed a theatre within a theatre. Assisted by Gabriel Pope they safely developed working parts of the set adding so much to the design. Maria Haren has contributed marvellous painting skills, Jill Hogwood filled a gap in my own talents by being the best costumer I could hope for, and Samantha Hardaker took the stage effect lighting to the next level. As a result, we have a very characterful setting representing the true spirit of what you experience from being part of any environment backstage.

- Joshua Stojanovic