BOOK REVIEW: In the Name of Theatre: The History, Culture and Voices of Amateur Theatre in Victoria by Cheryl Threadgold, Self-published, 2020
There is no sweeter melancholy than that moment after you’ve taken your final bows. The season is done. You’ve struck the set. And the stage which has been your magical world is—once again—swept bare. As Prospero says at the end of The Tempest—it is as if we players have all ‘melted into air’.
Cheryl Threadgold has rescued us from that oblivion. She has given us the gift of memory.
Her sumptuous book, In the Name of Theatre, is a kind of encyclopaedia of the Victorian stage. From the early colonial settlement when entertainment included the viewing of executions or dissections of bodies of the executed, amateur theatre has come a long way.
In the Name of Theatre documents amateur companies from across the state. The Dunolly Theatre Company is here, along with the Colac Players, Ferntree Gully’s 1812 Theatre, the Frankston Theatre Group, and 147 other groups. All of them created by the sweat and passion of their members. The Mildura group, for example, was formed in 1946 by local teachers to present touring performances by Melbourne’s Little Theatre. The founding group worked so hard that the company soon had the skills and the passion to stage productions of its own.
The book entertains us with a cavalcade of writers, directors, performers, designers, set builders, technicians, judges, critics and musos. It is a generous celebration of the ways in which theatre has been the making of so many of us—giving us the courage, confidence and sometimes the spirit of defiance to be ourselves. You’ll meet some inspiring theatre-makers along the way, like the amateur playwright Cenarth Fox, whose plays have been performed in 43 countries. And the veteran performer, writer and director Eileen Nelson—an astonishingly generous theatre-maker.
This book is a celebration of and for theatre lovers across Victoria. It is lit by an inner passion which all of us share.
And the illustrations are delicious.