John Oxley’s Journey to Port Macquarie

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To mark the Bicentenary of John Oxley’s exploration of the Hastings area this year, Kay Morrison, Functions and Public Relations Coordinator at Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard, has helped to organise a play, called John Oxley’s journey to Port Macquarie. Featuring a talented local cast and crew, this play is a true community effort. The production will premiere at Douglas Vale on October 14 …

A talented local cast will be presenting a play called John Oxley’s Journey to Port Macquarie in October. How did this idea come about?

The idea for the play John Oxley’s Journey to Port Macquarie came about when I realised that it was the Bicentenary of John Oxley’s exploration of the Hastings region this year. I thought what a wonderful opportunity it would be to write a play relating to the journey. 

I read the book I Went with John Oxley by local author Richard Grimmond, and I knew that his book would be historically correct, as Richard used John Oxley’s journal as a basis for his book. 

I also thought that having a play on John Oxley performed at Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard would give wonderful exposure to this unique property and provide an opportunity for fundraising.

What is the storyline of the play?

The story relates the journey of the party of brave explorers who travelled  from Bathurst to Port Macquarie and then back to Sydney. It is told in a narrative style, and each of the eight cast members represent characters who were present on the journey.

Who are the cast and crew members?

The cast comprises eight males.

The role of John Oxley is being played by our local ABC radio announcer, Cameron Marshall. George Evans, the second in command of the expedition, is played by Chris Francis, a renowned member of the Player’s Theatre. Playing the role of Dr John Harris is a Douglas Vale member, John Goddard, and the role of botanist, Charles Fraser, is ably filled by Port Macquarie Toastmasters’ President, David Schrader.

There were twelve convicts in the original expedition, but only four of them appear in the play.

Tom Mcllveen, poet and Toastmaster, is playing the role of the narrator, Richard Watts. Two other Douglas Vale members, Rob Brown and Scott Barnes, have taken up the challenge and are playing John Dwyer and William Warner respectively.

The final cast member is Bruce Dawson, also a respected Player’s member and Toastmaster, who has stepped into the role of convict Henry Shippey.

There is one understudy who will perform in the play if the need arises. His name is Nicholas Kable, and he is a member of the vocal group known as Blokes Notes.

Douglas Vale members and supporters have offered their assistance as crew for the production. It will be a real community effort. 

Elmer Varga has taken on the difficult task of sound and has the role of coordinating the wireless microphones and training the cast in their use. Marian Chisolm is responsible for the music and sound effects, a Year Ten student, Isabella Pearson, from MacKillop College has designed the program, the costumes have been made by Marguerite Lamb from Green Point and the posters and flyers were designed by Gayle De Faveri, also a Port Macquarie Toastmasters’ member. The stage manager and assistants are Bob Morrison, Karlene Melville, Gerry Nagle and Scott Barnes, all member volunteers from Douglas Vale. Our rehearsal prompt is Marian Easterbrook and our lighting technician is Bob Eccleston, from Kempsey. Bob is a member of the Port Macquarie Maritime Museum and the Stuarts Point Players.

Who else would you like to thank for their support?

We received a $500 grant towards the staging of the play from the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Bicentennial Grant Scheme. This money was utilised in the provision of the costumes, backdrop, advertising and printing for the production. 

Letters of support for this grant came from Port Macquarie Lions and Port Macquarie Toastmasters. We also had to purchase eight wireless microphones for the cast to use.

Pauline Roods, a very talented local artist, kindly painted the 5 m wide backdrop as a beautiful Australian landscape scene. Pauline used paints supplied by the Durian Paint Company in Sydney.

The premiere of the play will take place at Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard on 14th October, at 5pm. Where are tickets available for purchase, and how much do they cost?

Tickets are available at the Port Macquarie Glasshouse. Tickets are restricted to 60 only and cost $30 each. The price of the ticket also includes a glass of wine, savouries and a tasting of a heritage port following the performance.

On the premiere night there is also an opportunity to purchase a special wine. What can you tell us about this?

This is a specially labelled heritage red wine for the Bicentennial Celebrations. It’s called John Oxley’s 200th Anniversary Explorer’s Red Wine and costs $20 a bottle.

The play will be performed twice after the premiere. Where and when will these performances take place?

The second performance will be at Douglas Vale at 12pm as part of the Douglas Vale Bicentennial Open Day on Saturday 20th October. This will be a family friendly performance. 

The third and final performance will be at Wauchope Country Club on Tuesday night, 30th October, at 6pm.

Please give us some more details about the Bicentennial Open Day at Douglas Vale on Saturday 20th October from 9:30am until 2:30pm. What types of activities will be available on the day?

This will be an enormous day, and entry to the event is only a gold coin donation. A full programme of entertainment incorporating Sing Australia, Krista Team Zumba, Spiral Time [Folk and Pop Music], Port Macquarie Dance Latin Performers, Port Macquarie Bush Poets and Mal and Shazza Salter [Country Music] will be on show.

Attractions on the day include the release of our latest vintage of Villard Blanc wine, Port Macquarie Observatory, Port Macquarie Maritime Museum, Port Macquarie Garden Club and Quota Club, a model timber ship display, vintage cars, arts and crafts, fruit and veg, recycled goods, books, fudge, wooden toys, preservatives, fresh flowers, tasty BBQ, Devonshire teas, free wine tasting and homestead and grounds tours.

Thanks Kay.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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