Norpa's Railway Wonderland back on track

NORPA Producer Marisa Snow at the Lismore Railway Station.
NORPA Producer Marisa Snow at the Lismore Railway Station. Emsy Gregor

GETTING Railway Wonderland on stage is almost like getting a big train on the move: it needs a lot of people working together but someone has to co-ordinate the team.

In Norpa's case, that person is producer Marisa Snow, of Eureka, who also produced the 2012 debut version.

We chatted to her to find out more about her job.  

How big of a job is Railway Wonderland?

It is a really big show. It has a really large team and being site-specific it doubles all the requirements.

We have to move all the lights, the electricals, cabling, seating, cast all to the site.

We had to do an emergency and risk assessment to that site.

That is a very long process so we have been working on it for eight months or more.

What exactly is your job?

I'm really focused on pulling the team together. We have a cast of four, and two of them are new to the show.

Three are from Sydney and one is local.

We also have a fully-fleshed technical team, so we have a lighting designer and operator, an audiovisual operator and designer, a sound designer, and they are all local.

On top of that we have a stage manager and an assistant stage manager, and they are running the rehearsal stage and the show once it's up, giving the technical guys their cues and running the backstage area.

How did the project originate?

This project started back in 2010.

The very initial stage was a call out through the Byron Writers Centre to writers from the region to write stories about trains.

They could be fiction or non-fiction.

From that we received some amazing stories, and then Julian (Louis, Norpa's artistic director) used that as a starting point for creative development on this work.

He teamed up with Janis Balodis, the co-writer, and they got a script together.

The cast then got together to develop the piece.

What is Railway Wonderland really about?

The starting point of the work is about waiting.

We started the developing stage putting all four actors in a room and we said 'pretend you are waiting.'

It slowly built and is still a series of vignettes across time focused on "hellos" and "goodbyes".

There is a whole unit about the 1940s on over-dramatised meetings in train stations when the actors keep missing ecah other.

It goes from modern day, when they are waiting for the bus, because the site is currently an active bus station. From there we move through the 1940s, because during the war lots of troops came through Lismore, we also go through the 1970s and the Aquarius Festival times.

A strong historical line of the story is about Italian immigration to Lismore.

What is new in the production?

The reason why we want to do this again is to do it with a higher production value and allow more people to see it.

Last time (in 2012) we only did five nights. We are doing 15 nights this time.

It's an opportunity to lift it, so, for example, the live choir's costumes are being re-designed and made by TAFE students, inspired by travel high-end outfits of the 1940s. Last time the choir was wearing white clothes of their own.

The production will be lifted but the guts of it, the story remains the same.


*At Lismore Railway Station as part of the 2015 Norpa Season, October 22 to November 7.

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