Morning Sacrifice, directed by Geoff Cartwright, is Rough Hewn Theatre Troupe’s final production – and it’s safe to say they have ended on a good note.
Since 2015, the Troupe’s oeuvre has focused on the female voice and the work of female theatre practitioners. Indeed, Morning Sacrifice is the ultimate fruit of that ambition – featuring an admirable all-female cast and production crew.
The story focuses on the divide experienced by a group of teachers and school administrators at the all-female Easthaven’s school, dealing with a 17-year-old girl kissing a boy at the school dance – apparently something which could instigate a local crisis to erupt in Cusak’s era.
On one side are the conservative teachers Miss Bates, Miss Hammond, and Miss Pearl (Jen Davidson, Olga Tamara, and Meg Shooter), advocating for harsh penalisation and deterrence. On the other, are the ‘progressive’ teachers Mrs MacNiell, Miss Carwithin, and Miss Sole (Sarah Metcalfe, Maddie Boyle, and Sarah Purdue), who advocate for forgiveness and defend the girl from harsh punishment.
This conflict is exacerbated by the Principal, Miss Woods (Maxine Appel-Cohen), and even more so by her Machiavellian Deputy – Miss Kingsbury (Taylor Owynns) – with the young and vulnerable Miss Ray (Evie McCutcheon) ultimately becoming the necessary ‘sacrifice’ to put an end to the conflict.
A poignant (if outdated) exploration of the issues facing the teaching system observed by writer Dymphna Cusak in 1938, the all-female cast performed well. There were a few hiccups with the cast – occasional stumbling of words, addressing a character by the wrong name etc – but these issues were recovered well and did not detract significantly from the acting as a whole.
A slightly more troubling issue worth noting here was that Evie McCutcheon, despite playing a central character, delivered many of her lines far too quietly and tentatively (with many of them being inaudible) and on some occasions, slightly mechanically.
Nevertheless, the quality of acting from the large cast was very good for most of the play.
One aspect of Cartwright’s Morning Sacrifice which was done especially well was its depiction of the late 1930s, mainly achieved by the convincing and extremely well-developed late-30s styled set. Acting to further reinforce the feeling of the play by utilising darker tones as well as highly worn-down set pieces, an awesome job was done by the drama ensemble from Stella Maris School who were responsible for this.
Costumes further contributed to the realistic late 30s portrayal, done by The Wardrobe Costumiers – the costumes were excellent, with each piece deeply true to the period.
Ultimately, it’s sad to see Rough Hewn Theatre Troupe leaving the Northern Beaches after 13 years. Fortunately, their last show has ended the group on a great note. All the best to Geoff and other Troupe members on their future endeavours!