‘John Gavin’ is an unusual and unique piece that has been created for the stage by Nick Candy, Dawn Pascoe and Steve Finnegan for Natural Wings. This captivating and well-researched World First is showing at the Blue Room Studio, James Street, Northbridge nightly until Saturday 5th May. All shows are at 8.30 pm.
Through the pitch dark comes a beam of torch light. It is the bush land around Dardanup and Tony (Nick Candy) is researching an historic event from early in the 18th century. He turns to his partner, Yvonne (Dawn Pascoe) and points at a pile of stones on the ground; he had found the site of Éclair Farm. Lurking in the shadows is a ghostly figure.
We are taken back a couple of hundred years and find a group of children playing in a Warwickshire street; it is their dinner break from the spoon factory where they are employed. One of the children is John Gavin (birth name Gaven) who was born in England, in1829, of Irish parents. He was convicted of a trivial misdemeanour and sent to Penthurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. Penthurst then sent John (Steven Finnigan), aged only 14, along with 233 others youngsters to the WA Swan River Colony.
Once in WA, in order to get a pardon from his 10-year sentence, John had to start an apprenticeship. This he did on the Pollard’s farm. Things went well for a year and then, just before Easter 1844, John was accused of killing his employer's 15-year-old son, George Pollard. The youth was said to confess in writing, to murdering the sleeping victim by striking him in anger with an adze.
On the 3rd April he was tried in the original court house at the side of Stirling Gardens. He was convicted by a kangaroo court (?) (Voices of the legal authorities played by Ian Toyne, Greg McNeill and Stuart Halusz), and on Easter Saturday he was publicly hanged in front of the Fremantle Round House. The first European to be executed in the Colony. He was then buried without ceremony in an unmarked grave in Fremantle.
Nick Candy is possibly better known for his quality acting than his acrobatics. Dawn Pascoe, however, usually plays the silent, daring aerial artist. In this production Dawn proves her immense talent for powerful acting and delivering highly emotional dialogue with great skill.
I wondered how a team of physical performers, no matter how talented, could do justice to such a touching tale as that of Gavin, but the team have ingeniously incorporated their sling-trapeze flair into the children’s games, a rough sea voyage and the poignant hanging scene. Steven Finnigan’s portrayal of John’s approach to the gallows was brilliant and moving.
Joe Lui’s lighting of the totally black, prop-free stage added drama to the situation. Joe also supplied the soundscape of music and complex sound effects. The sounds were exceptional and the amount of work in this remarkable production must have been colossal.
Chaka’s costumes were simple, but well considered with some clever trimmings.
This hour long, very physical show must have been gruelling to the actors, but they still managed to perform this sad tale with conviction. A high class, fast moving, absorbing production.
The course of true love never did run smooth - especially when it is fickle teenage love