A cultural monster mash

Monsters –  and drama students – from two cultures have teamed up to present a new play that will have its world premiere at Okinawa’s annual Kijimuna Festival in July.

Six Flinders Drama Centre students will join six Japanese student actors in a performance of Once Upon a Midnight, a bilingual musical written by Flinders postgraduate student Alex Vickery-Howe [pictured]. The overseas performance will also have a ‘return leg’ as part of Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival in September.

In finding themes that would interest audiences from both cultures, Mr Vickery-Howe settled on young people’s fascination with fantasy, magic and music as common points of reference.

The story follows the fortunes of Kelsey Clarke, the most paranoid and frightened child in the world.
“She’s scared of the dark, she’s scared of heights, she’s scared of everything,” Mr Vickery-Howe said.
After being lured into an underground world of monsters and dreams, Kelsey confronts and eventually overcomes her deepest fears.

The characterisation turns convention on its head, with a reformed, vegetarian vampire on the side of good, while a fairy godmother is exposed as the villain. Vickery-Howe also researched Japanese myths to find a cast of suitable monsters.

“As far as design goes, we’re going for a comic book, manga kind of look,” Mr Vickery-Howe said. While the sets will be fairly simple, the costumes will be quite elaborate, and the show will be put together over four weeks of intensive rehearsal in Okinawa.

Both songs and dialogue will be presented in Japanese and English. Mr Vickery-Howe said one disconcerting aspect of having his work translated into Japanese was seeing entire lines of dialogue rendered into a single Japanese character.

Rehearsals will rely heavily on translators to convey the writer’s and the director’s intentions to the actors.
“It will be a hard gap to bridge in some ways, and for research purposes I will be documenting every step of the process as we go,” Mr Vickery-Howe said.

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