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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

St Nicholas brings horror to the stage and screen

Motivated by the idea of finding new, innovate ways to bring horror to the stage, actor Craig Alexander first stumbled across St Nicholas some time ago.

“I’m a bit of a horror fan and I was really interested with starting to experiment with horror on stage and this work kept showing up in my research about how you can do that,” he told Canberra Weekly.

“Even with all this talk of horror, it’s quite a fun show; yes, it’s somewhat dark but the critic as much as he, an unnamed character, is like an antihero, he’s unlikeable in what he does but you relish in his downfall.”

Written in the late-1990s by award-winning Irish playwright Conor McPherson, St Nicholas is a modern-day story of bloodlust, vampires and a theatre critic.

“I’m loving playing this moment of a really disgusting person, it’s ugly and there’s that really interesting thing of who’s the actual monster in this story,” Alexander said.

The production will see Alexander share the stage with singer-songwriter Den Hanrahan, who said he is excited by the opportunity to create a creepy soundscape with music steeped in blues, roots and electronic sounds.

“It’s all off-the-cuff, but in saying that, everything is prepared. There are soundscapes for every character and there’s different noises rolling underneath.

“I want it to be locked in but loose at the same time; because we’re all human you can’t do it as a sequence because you’ve got to have triggers in the music so that you know where you are, so it’s really exciting for me,” he said.

This will be Hanrahan’s first time on stage, having performed live for productions in the past.

Alexander said over rehearsal he’s developed a great interplay with Hanrahan, who happens to be his neighbour.

“There’s moments I’m driving the storytelling and he, as a musician, is driving the storytelling, which is really nice to find that balance and that collaboration in that live space,” he said.

Given COVID-19 restrictions won’t allow the production to appear before a live in-theatre audience, the production will instead be broadcast live online.

The opportunity to do so has afforded director Shelly Higgs, who happens to be Alexander’s wife, the possibility to utilise her photography background and get creative with their use of cameras.

“We were really keen not to have one of those dodgy recordings of a show where the camera is up the back and audio is pathetic,” Alexander said.

“There’s a constant thought of what the frame of the camera sees, not necessarily that wide shot you get in a theatre experience,” he said.

Director Shelly Higgs said bringing ‘liveness’ into the lounge rooms of their audience is key.

“How do we transport live theatre to hundreds of different living rooms with the same presence and integrity as in a physically shared space? The audience needs to be a part of it,” she said.

“We want it to have a life after this season in front of an audience and capture that theatrical element.”

St Nicholas is being produced by The Street for a digital season running 5-7 June, and will be broadcast online; book here.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts