Twice the drama

• Writer and director Andrew O’Connell.

A PLAY in two  languages comes with some challenges for an audience, but East Fremantle-born playwright and director Andrew O’Connell reckons he’s nailed it with his latest production Le Sorelle.

“I think it will be a good frustration rather than a bad frustration, as I hope the gestures and tone of voice will convey what’s going on,” O’Connell says of Le Sorelle – Italian for The Sisters.

And frustration is at the heart of the play, which centres around two Italian siblings who go to all sorts of lengths to sabotage each other’s plans; one dreams of a new life in Australia, but that would leave the other stuck alone in their big old farmhouse.

The third character in the play is Aussie ex-pat Mack, and O’Connell says having the sisters switch to Italian when he exits the stage and they’re alone helps maintain authenticity – it’s invariably what people would do in real life.

“It’s loosely based on true events, but it’s more based on people I know and their personalities,” says O’Connell, whose love for literature was sparked during a stint in Italy in 2001 where he scored a job teaching English.

Visiting the local bookshop, he could only find a handful of English books, but they were all classics and he became absorbed in them, deciding his plans of being a physiotherapist weren’t really where his heart was.

He started experimenting with short stories, then a trip to the famous Globe Theatre in London to see a production of The Tempest in 2004 set him on his current career path in theatre.

His first plays were challenging for directors, and when one critic suggested some experience on stage would help, he took it to heart and, heading back to Australia, paid his dues with theatre companies such as Genesian and Veracity in Sydney.

O’Connell says moving back home to WA about five years ago provided him with the impetus to start putting on more of his own shows and he created Company O, which is named after Oscar Wilde.

“When I was in Sydney there was a lot of opportunity, but here it’s a bit limited; you know, the opportunities for a 40-year-old guy…”

He says it’s challenging putting on theatre without the budgets of more established companies, but he’s optimistic.

“I would like to think I am the worst house on the best street, meaning I’m at the lower end of professional theatre, but still above the amateur.”

His first local ensemble piece Stuck played to sold-out shows in 2018 and earned O’Connell a nomination for best play in the independent theatre category of the Performing Arts WA Awards. 

O’Connell said he developed Le Sorelle over 10 years, regularly setting it aside to take on new projects, but always coming back to weave in stories he’d come across.

“Driving it is a little bit of culture shock; the Italian girls who love where they are and never want to leave, but those who still want to have some sort of adventure.”

Le Sorelle (The Sisters) Company O
Fri February 18: 7.30pm
Saturday February 19: 3.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday February 20: 3.30pm and 7.30pm
Fremantle Italian Club
Marine Tce, Fremantle Tix: trybooking.com

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