New amateur theatre companies are like people you sit next to on planes – you’re probably only going to see them once. The Ryde Argyle Performing Arts Company are working overtime to ensure we become frequent flyers.

The group advertised heavily for auditions for their first show some months ago and received 500 replies. The company’s first production will be of Michael Gow’s Live Acts On Stage, a sprawling comedy which features gods and characters from Greek mythology within high farce to satirise the Australian condition. Director Warwick Clarke is staging the play in two different styles, one set in 1950s Australia and the other in the present day. There will be a DJ after the Friday night show and cabaret singer Hayden Tee will entertain the crowds on the opening night. The after-show knees-up may also feature a band.

Clarke has just returned from working in the US and relishes the opportunity to direct a play he sees as perfect for the group.

In terms of doing a community theatre production you always have to look for something with quite a large cast, Clarke says. This one has 43 characters in an hour and a half. It was originally performed by eight actors and was on as part of Mardi Gras in ’96 at the Griffin.

It’s also a play that’s rarely done. It’s a bit controversial. It’s not your serious drama, it’s a mix of high farce comedy and tragedy.

Kudos for the publicity machine too, for pumping out a pantheon-full of pictures Clarke tells me will be reflected in the eventual production. This means some nudity, but also a promised camp/gay subtext. (The tagline for the production is where nothing is sacred but all is divine.)

In terms of the play the only positive relationships, until right near the end, are gay, he says. Gow basically takes the world and all the relationships within that world, and the ones that are succeeding are between the same sex.

Thumbs up too for added community altruism. The opening night show is an ACON fundraiser, with tickets selling for $35.

Finally, the group deserve some sort of award for weirdest publicity stunt. A couple of actors attended Bingay last week and in a moment of enthusiasm knocked host Mitzi Macintosh to the ground. That went down really well, Clarke said.

Live Acts On Stage runs for 11 performances only, from Thursday 7 August to Saturday 16 August at 8pm. Opening night ACON fundraiser tickets are $35, other tickets are $25. Tickets may be booked through the Seymour Centre on 9351 7940 or at Vamp Caf?536 Crown Street, Surry Hills.

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