The Lady in the Barracks – behind the curtains

The Lady in the Barracks
The Lady in the Barracks

The Lady in the Barracks is a new play written by Margaret Fitzgerald set in colonial Australia, Directed by Bron Lim.

Set in 1809, Mary is pitted against a hostile military in a battle of wits as she attempts to free her father, Governor Bligh. Twelve months after the Rum Rebellion, Governor Bligh was held prisoner in the barracks.

Recently I was invited to attend an intimate rehearsal at The Actors Pulse over in Redfern. A studio dedicated to realism and drawing the foundations of laying character development and genuine storytelling.

Fortunately enough I was able to have a quick one-on-one with Mrs Mary Putland and Annabel.

Annabel (played by Jess Turner) is in her early 20s is the servant maid to Mrs Mary Putland. A young girl, who has sisterly characteristics and perhaps at times a best friend to Mary.

I asked Jess, what did she love of the character she played? Annabel is a strong girl, has been through and seen a lot and feels anxious at times that Annabel can’t do anything about things. She is a lot smarter than what people take credit for.

“Having a voice in any period resonates strongly with all women, including today. There is a gender gap in soo many ways. Annabel has come over from England to Australia and been here for 3 years. She decided she could be the person to break the chain and not be working for someone for her whole life. The dream of becoming a teacher, become someone and make a name for herself. We joke about our independence because it is such a far out concept in the 1900’s” says Jess.

Beside prop checking, Jess likes to hone into the character early before taking her first step onto the stage.

Mary Putland (played by Genevieve Helson) is Governors Blighs daughter and has travelled over hell and high water to get to Australia on a boat. Her father creates a lot of enemies within the military and they get put into house arrest in Government House. Which later sees him get thrown into the Barracks and Mary follows suit.

How would you describe Mary? Mary has feisty characteristics about her, on arrival in Sydney, Mary took charge of Government House in Sydney and despite her public gaiety, her private life was taken up with concern about her husband’s health.

Why did Mary stick by her father and what was her ‘duty’ she was upholding? Without giving to much away, Mary felt safe being by her father’s side but also felt that if she doesn’t protect her father, who will?

With Annabel by her side. The two have developed a sisterly friendship but also has boundaries and is still the servant maid. Annabel is the only other woman who is around her age that she can talk to.

Genevieve loves period acting and enjoyed the script that has great character development. The period style is very interesting and it can change or shape the future from action that were taken.

I don’t see much specific rituals from either ladies. But Genevieve does like to stretch before heading out on stage, it helps with centring herself and focus breathing.

What would you like the audience to take back from the play?

JT: The history and the story. But look at it in a way in how it resonates with today and take away that you can have the independence. Be strong and go for what you want and what you believe in. Annabel is out there chasing her dream, leaving the past behind as she’s wants to move forward and make a life of her own in Australia.

GH: I probably want them to know Mary’s struggle and be with her – at least by the end be wanting to her to do the right thing for her even if she doesn’t think so.

The Lady in the Barracks
Tickets on sale online or at the door from $20.

4 – 9 September 2017
The Actors Pulse Playhouse
103 Regent St, Redfern

12, 14-15, 17-24 September 2017
The Harlequin Inn
152-156 Harris St, Sydney

Peach Productions is a diverse collaboration of graduates from UTS Media Arts and Production program. For more than ten years the group has supported each other in developing theatre, films, audio projects, novels and exploring new horizons. Margaret Fitzgerald studied writing and filmmaking at UTS and has written and directed several short plays and films. The Lady in the Barracks is Margaret’s first longer play to be brought to the stage. Since graduating from Theatre Nepean, Bron Lim gained extensive experience as a director, teacher and performer, in Australia and internationally. Credits include Bell Shakespeare, Company B, Q Theatre, BBC, Yellow Earth, Company:Collisions, Leicester Haymarket, and Polka Theatre.