THE KING'S PLAYER
WRITTEN & PERFORMED BY TREF GARE
THE ALEX THEARE: STUDIO SPACE
19 - 26 APRIL 2024
16 characters. A tour de force solo performance.
Fri 19 April, 8:00pm (opening) Sat 20 April, 8:00pm Wed 24 April, 8:00pm Thurs 25 April, 8:00pm Fri 26 April, 8:00pm
Writer/Performer: Tref Gare Producer: Matthew Connell Designer: Chelsea Neate
Plagues, death, squalor.
The occasional disembowelment.
Duration: 65 minutes
Against this backdrop a nutrition, luck and talent starved minstrel is suddenly and unexpectedly offered the holy of holies… a chance to become one of the elite.
A King's Player...
in the Danish court of Elsinore.
The Alex Theatre: Studio Space Address: 1/135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda VIC 3182. This venue is wheelchair accessible. Public Transport: 3a/16/96 Tram. Parking: Street.
For every great tragic hero, there is an equally great, tragic, bit part. Some nights, breaking a leg really is your best option. Okay – Let’s get this out of the way… This is not Hamlet’s story. Hamlet, the young barely post pubescent prince of Denmark. His dear Dad (the old king) is just two month’s dead and now his Mum’s gone and married his dead dad’s brother, aka his uncle, the new King. Hamlet is not greatly impressed. He gets even less impressed when his dear dead Dad’s ghost turns up to tell him it was that same uncle (the new King) who murdered him, stole his crown and seduced his Queen. Uncertain of whether this vision was the after product of one too many night’s mournful carousing or whether the dirty was indeed done on his dear dead dad, Hamlet sets out to ascertain the truth by hiring a group of travelling players to cunningly re-enact the alleged murder in an artsy form of Medieval Crime Stoppers. Lo and behold, mid show, mid gruesome bit, the new King leaps up, pale spleened and spluttering, and exits the scene at a guilty gallop. Hamlet, thus convinced that the dirty was indeed done on his dear dead Dad, plots his revenge. That’s all that concerns us for now except to say that everybody, including a young virgin, an old fool, a King, a Queen, a Prince, a brother and of course a jester (Alas poor Yorick), is dead by the final whistle. Tragic stuff… But this, this is NOT Hamlet’s story…
Written and performed by Tref Gare - King's Player debuted in London in 1992 and has been performed across the UK, NZ, India and Australia.
What's On In London (pick of the week)
'One of the most technically brilliant shows I've ever seen.'
'Innovative, exciting and new.'
'A riotously funny romp... a wonderful demonstration of acting.'
'walks tumbles falls and even sings along a fine line between stand-up comedy and theatre'
In 1986, as a somewhat callow 21 year old, I set off from Melbourne on a 6 week Euro holiday to visit my Italian relatives and checkout the UK, land of my birth in the swinging sixties (though I’d left by the time I was 3 months old so I can’t really claim any significant Britishness or swinging 60ness). This 6 week holiday would, through a variety of fates, eventually stretch out to 9 years during which time I retrained from a general ‘actor for hire’ into a hybrid form of physical theatre that incorporated mime, text, music, mask and visual theatre… basically anything that suited the purpose and seemed like a good idea at the time. I did lots of training and an encouraging but relatively tiny amount of actual performing, so like a lot of folks I started to explore the idea of making my own work, rather than waiting for someone to make it for me. I formed a small production company, Eclectic Pelican, which to be fully honest consisted of just me, with the aim to create and tour actor based works of hybrid theatre. The pelican eventually produced 5 plays which toured various corners of the world to varying levels of success. King’s Player was the first of those and by far the most successful, being performed across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and India. It is the comfortable old shoe of the pelican repertoire and seems to be the Freddy Kruegger of them (ie: it never actually seems to die). The play’s genesis began when, fresh out of mime school, I was fortunate enough to score a gig touring Britain with an indie British theatre company called The Medieval Players. They were famous for works of highly physical, multi disciplinary theatre inspired by medieval traditions in which the audience was a prime, present and very active participant in the show. Prior to this, I had only had a very superficial understanding of the medieval period but while exploring the medieval players’ back catalogue, I started to get fascinated by the parallels I saw between the life of a travelling player in the middle ages and the life of an often hungry and intermittently employed modern actor. I decided it would be fascinating to do a show about that and set off to spend a year in France and Italy, studying Commedia Dell'Arte and “writing my one man show”. It was going to be an insightful and moving tome about a medieval performer and his skeletal horse. It was to be performed in authentic medieval style, incorporating mummers, masks, mime and probably some mud. It was going to be great. After my year on the continent I returned to London in 1991 with my script in tow and presented it to various producer friends who all smiled politely and informed me that what I’d written was rather ostentatious, a bit pretentious and overall basically crudulous. Noone was remotely interested in presenting it and my pride took a significant knock. However one cinder of possibility remained just faintly alight. While researching my opus, I’d struggled to find good examples of royal/noble court based performances. One of my friends suggested I look at the play within a play in Hamlet. It struck me that it might be funny if my medieval performer had been part of that troupe… which became an idea that perhaps he was that troupe… which became the first glimpse of the thing that eventually became King’s Player. However to get there I had to throw away my somewhat overwrought script and start from scratch. I improvised some basic ideas in front of friends in their lounge rooms - they encouraged me enough that I booked a fringe theatre for a few nights and extended that improvisation out to 20 mins. This produced more encouragement, so I booked a full season at a fringe theatre in South East London called the White Bear, got a costume made up by the overly talented Louisa Ruthven and borrowed some workshop time from my director friend Joanna Weir and extended the piece out to around an hour. Another friend, Frank Gibson worked for an advertising agency and knew an art director who was bored of photographing breakfast cereal and keen to do a pro bono project which resulted in a very beautiful poster and marketing materials. I remember first seeing the poster image and being struck that now I had to at least match that level of quality (and it was a very beautiful poster - no pressure). I think I had to sell a kidney or two to cover the printing costs but it was worth it. The season was a roaring success, unless you count the box office receipts or actual attendance figures. Next to nobody came - but those who did were appreciative and it reviewed well, so I decided to try and tour it. I spent about a year cold calling all the small and mid sized touring circuit theatres of Britain, armed with that beautiful poster, some photos and a small clutch of reviews. I was cheap, the marketing material was good and the show had an accessible hook in that everyone with a theatrical bent had at least heard of Hamlet and could get the idea of a physical theatre stand up comedy mashup, so I was eventually able to book a decent tour covering some very interesting corners and crevices of the UK. I then returned to Aus in 1994 to do a season at the Universal Theatre in Carlton, from where it was booked for a follow on season at the Downstage Theatre in Wellington New Zealand. It was during this time that the beautiful backdrop (a labor of love from Jen Ellis Stevens) was added. Since then it has done more touring in the UK, across Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, and a scattering of seasons in Melbourne and Bangalore India.
TREF GARE / PERFORMER & CREATOR
Tref Gare has been a lot of things and some of them have definitely involved the theatre.
Pre show he enjoys staring through the holes in the curtain, watching the people sitting unknowingly in the “audience participation” chair.
The Alex Theatre
The Alex Theatre has been a home of operations for VTC since 2020 and have championed every VTC production to date. Alex Theatre ST Kilda (ATSK) is an innovative theatre project set up to develop a more in-depth understanding of how to keep stage and screen productions viable. The Alex Theatre was founded in 2015 and is the home to a diverse array of performing arts groups and artists who are actively working towards a common goal, which was put into motion by producer and global entrepreneur Aleksandar Vass OAM upon his return to Australia from the UK. St Kilda was chosen due to its historic value to the arts, it was the original wellspring of rock music, creative arts, and film in Australia, and the top end of Fitzroy Street is the perfect location, nestled within the George building adjacent to the George Hotel for this ambitious project.