16 September 2022

Griffith performers return home after conquering Edinburgh Fringe Festival

| Oliver Jacques
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Hopes and Dreams cast lined up outside hotel.

Hopes and Dreams cast and crew Peter Fordham, Lorraine Maxwell, Romina Tappi, Sue Fordham, Bernie Maxwell, and Bruce Dougherty in Edinburgh. Photo: Supplied.

It was in 1999 that a 36-year-old Bernie Maxwell made his theatrical debut, in the stage play Oliver at the Griffith Regional Theatre.

“I always loved drama but it took me a long time to actually do it,” Mr Maxwell said.

“My wife Lorraine suggested I give it a go and she’s been regretting it ever since,” he joked.

Some 23 years later, Mr Maxwell has just fulfilled a lifelong dream, having completed 12 shows of his critically acclaimed play Hopes and Dreams at the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe.

“If you’ve ever harboured the secret desire [to do drama] just go for it … just make a clown of yourself, you can’t beat it … it’s never too late,” he said.

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Italian-based professional actor Romina Tappi acted opposite Mr Maxwell in the two-person onstage performance, while Peter Fordham directed the play and built the set and Bruce Dougherty did much of the technical work. Mr Fordham is a NSW Community Theatre Hall of Fame inductee with near four decades of theatre experience, while Ms Tappi his also been a singer, playwright, director, dramaturge and educator both in Australia and Italy.

Griffith tennis star Lorraine Maxwell and Peter’s wife Sue Fordham also travelled to Edinburgh to provide backstage support.

“It was a real family affair, my children and their partners also came along,” Mr Maxwell said.

Before travelling overseas, the crew were buoyed by the Adelaide Advertiser’s four-and-a-half star review on their show when performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The review described Hopes and Dreams as a “gruelling and gritty dissection of a clapped-out marriage … the show excels through the consummate writing of Bernie Maxwell, and his powerful performance as the hapless, put-upon husband Douglas, alongside the terrifyingly good Romina Tappi as his frustrated wife”.

Husband and wife on stage dancing.

Bernie and Romina on stage. Photo: Supplied.

“The Edinburgh Fringe is three times as big [as Adelaide] … it’s massive, there are 4000 shows over a three-week period,” Mr Maxwell said.

“There’s so much to see, so we did really well to get good audiences for every show … it was a phenomenal experience for a small group coming from country NSW.”

Scottish online arts and culture magazine Wee Review has given the play four stars in a soon to be published article.

“It was an amazing experience … we are really hoping to put the play on again in Australia and perhaps overseas,” Sue Fordham said.

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Mr Maxwell said he learned a lot from other Fringe Festival performances.

“There were monologues that ran for 45 minutes, just one person sitting on a chair talking. But it was absolutely captivating.”

The Griffith playwright is now working on a full length play titled Ties that Bind, which explores the pain of dementia.

“I like to tease the dramatic out of everyday life … I’d love to be able to tour around regional centres,” he said.

Anyone interesting in getting involved in drama can contact the Griffith and Regional Association of the Performing Arts (GRAPA).

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