New local theatre work to be First Seen online

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The idea that creativity benefits from working under pressure isn’t new, but is certainly apt for many creatives who have moved to using technology during the current pandemic.

Goulburn-based playwright Nigel Featherstone’s latest work, The Story of the Oars, explores the mystery of an ill-fated sailing trip at Lake George. File image.

Goulburn-based playwright and author Nigel Featherstone’s latest work is undergoing a two-week development intensive as part of The Street’s First Seen program.

Set at Lake George in the 1980s, The Story of the Oars sees three teenage brothers drown on an ill-fated sailing trip but their bodies are never found.

Featherstone’s mystery play with songs then moves ahead 30 years and unravels before a now dry lake as four strangers unburden themselves of the truth.

The work has undergone development with a 10-person creative team over Zoom in an intense two-week incubation period that will culminate in a live online broadcast this Friday, 15 May.

“We still just meet, it’s an intense schedule but we’re all punctual, turn up at Zoom and it’s still very collaborative,” he said.

“One thing that I’ve found really beneficial is that I’m doing it at home in my studio.

“Normally you get to the end of the day and you have to drive home … When we finish a three-hour Zoom session, I shut down the laptop and keep going.”

Living in Goulburn and having driven past Lake George many times, Featherstone finds the lake to be an alluring setting for a mystery.

“A story that really moved me when I was much younger was Picnic at Hanging Rock. I think Lake George has a similar power as a landscape, with a lot of layers going on there,” he said.

Also an author, Featherstone previously wrote for the stage when he created a song-cycle called The Weight of Light, which premiered at The Street in 2018.

Given that work was sung through, he said this time around he wanted to start bringing in dialogue along with music but “not go so far as to write a musical”.

“I had never written a mystery before … It was new for me in terms of structuring all that you want to reveal with the mystery and so that when you get to the reveal it’s rewarding.”

The Story of the Oars, currently a work in progress, will be shown to audiences via Zoom on 15 May 5pm. Register at thestreet.org.au/shows/first-seen-story-oars-nigel-featherstone

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