Naked Island (1983)
How does one transform Adamson Hall, Melbourne, realistically into Changi Prison, Singapore? Can seven schoolboys lose enough weight to pass themselves off as the emaciated survivors of one of the worst Japanese prisons of the Second World War? What was the bugle call used at ”Lights Out” at Changi? These were just some of the problems facing Mr John Hood and his company of actors and crew of this year's Senior Play, ”Naked Island ”, by Russell Braddon.
For the answer to the first question: enlist the help of Mr Tony Scanlon, Noel Solomon and Arthur Long and other students to build what is known in the theatre trade as ”a box set”. Use slightly over ten litres of black to grey paint to transform the canvas and foam into the blue-stone walls of Changi Prison.
The second question - most adolescents have very little excess fat and as a result are quite capable of playing such characters. James Garden, Jon Boucher, Peter Wright, Scott Robertson, Dirk Bromley, Allan Thomas and Cameron Noakes were able to add the needed realism to their characters.
The third question gave the two Stage Managers, Stephen Torok and Steve Parker headaches for some months. Having written to various survivors of Changi, both in Australia and England, the second-in-command at Changi Prison, and the Australian War Museum and received no answer, it was decided to use a whistle blast instead, for ”lights out”.
Those who saw ”Naked Island ” will agree that the cast and crew coped with the problems admirably. The play is set in the prison camp during the last days of the war. It deals with a group of Five POW's who occupy one cell. Their special duty to their mates is to get the BBC news every day. using a home-made radio set. Gradually the pressure of their predicament builds on them. The Japanese would rather kill the prisoners than repatriate them. One of the prisoners begins to crack, but even during this trying time they find a new bond of companionship.
The play was to change the pace from previous years. It had no main characters; instead, each character (and therefore actor) had to rely on others. This could quite easily have led to problems for some groups of actors, but not this one. James Garden gave one ot the best performances to date in the role of Jacko the ex-policeman, who holds the men in his cell together with his undying humor.
The comic character, and one of the favourites with the audience, was Magpie, played by John Boucher. A born scrounger, he kept us laughing as he produced seemingly impossible-to-obtain items from seemingly impossible-to-reach places. Peter Wright was Mum, Jacko's mate, and as his name suggests, the caring one of the group, knitting socks and looking after everyone. Scott Robertson played Ken, a confused man who spoke such brave words, but when the end neared he didn't have the courage to live up to his words. Dirk Bromley played Oscar, the radio maker, the only one of those in the cell who hadn't spent many years with the others. He spent much of the play separated from the others, but he is accepted into the fold, as Ken is rejected. Allan Thomas played Robbie, a sailor who lives in the cell above, risking his life every night to help get the news. Cameron Nokes played the Japanese Guard, disillusioned by war, but still loyal to his fading empire.
Thanks must go to Mr. Tony Scanlon for designing and helping build the set, David Paynter, Rufus Black, Theo Anagoustou, and Nigel Morris for the lights, Mr. Bill Toppin for lighting effects. Bill Johnstone for sound, and many members of staff and students who helped with the production.