I have always loved the challenge and beauty of solo performance: inherently theatrical; always intense and – when it’s good – utterly mesmerising.
The End of Winter is a solo performance work written by Noëlle Janaczewska, the recipient of numerous awards, most notably Yale University’s Windham Campbell Prize in 2014, which recognised her body of dramatic writing.
I have had the pleasure of directing a number of Noëlle’s plays and only this year completed a fifth season of her acclaimed Good with Maps, managing to dodge COVID lockdowns to present seasons in Parramatta, Launceston and Hobart.
I, along with Jane Phegan (performer) and Nate Edmondson (composer), have had the pleasure of working with Noëlle to develop The End on Winter in two creative development sessions thanks to the support of Critical Stages Touring (CTS).
We committed 15 minutes of excerpts as part of the CST screening room in 2020, met again and presented a public reading in 2021 while waiting for theatres to reopen. So, here we are in 2022 – still in the middle of a raging pandemic – in the rehearsal room and keeping positive about our season at SBW Stables Theatre in February.
Noëlle calls The End of Winter a “performance essay”.
This conjures the tradition of performance essayists such as Spaulding Gray, the “non-theatrical performance” of Tim Etchells, and the minimalist performance style that essayists employ.
The End of Winter is from the pen of a feminist and politically attuned contemporary Australian woman and written in the wake of the devastating Australian bushfires of 2019. It explores the implications of our changing climate: the loss of habitats, language, the potential loss of seasons – in particular, winter.
The bloke-sphere of global exploration, colonisation, and polar science are examined as we are taken on a search for cold places that can be reached by public transport – or the imagination.
Along the way we meet some feisty women of science; contemplate the feminisation of myths and legends of winter; and are asked some confronting questions about our relationship to our warming planet.
There is something of an elegiac quality to the writing as the speaker shares the loss of her mother. Indeed, grief and loss are themes tightly woven into this story of the end of winter. But so is regeneration, adaptability, legacy and hope. We live in a complex time of geo-history.
The End of Winter is performed with a resonant production design by newcomer Soham Apte. Jane Phegan’s skilful and sophisticated performance of this poetic, detailed and elegant text is interwoven with Nate Edmondson’s and Kaitlyn Crocker’s equally superb score. Lighting designer Becky Russell completes the team.
I guarantee we will be sharing laughter and tears and I can’t wait to share The End of Winter.