The Aspirations of Daise Morrow – A note from Director Chris Drummond.
27 July 2018
The first and perhaps most important act of adaptation in undertaking this production was changing the title of Patrick White’s short story from Down at the Dump to The Aspirations of Daise Morrow. The new title, lifted directly from the text, immediately focused the task of the adaptation – thematically, conceptually and dramaturgically – cutting to the heart of the raison d’être, not only for the production concept but for the motivation of undertaking this adaptation in the first place.
As I see it, Patrick White’s Down at the Dump is a timeless story about seizing the day; about following one’s instincts, taking a chance and not letting the bastards grind you down. It’s an evocation of the wonders of small beginnings, the complications of compassion and the grace and majesty of love. It’s also a story of small communities and all the complexities that come with that: the fear of outsiders, of the unusual, and the uninhibited (or is it the unattainable?). Ultimately, I think Down at the Dump is an ode to the opposite; to not being closed, but like Daise, to simply being open, open to whatever life brings.
Down at the Dump is a story that places us on the cusp of many things, in a time heading into the 60s, in a world itself on the cusp of massive cultural and political change. This historical and social perspective has a ‘mirror’ in so many narrative details throughout the story: from Ossie living on the cusp of society, to the Whalleys living on the cusp of poverty; from Myrtle Hogben living on the cusp of political influence, to Meg and Lum living on the cusp of adulthood; from all the town’s men and women living on the cusp of their fears and desires, to Daise herself, hovering on the cusp of memory and rumour, judgement and envy, life and death. It is a rich and potent world that feels to me as theatrical as any of Patrick White’s plays. From the moment I first read it, it has been a world of ghosts and magic in my imagination.
The goal of our adaptation (actually, let’s call it a ‘theatricalisation’) has been to lift this story from the page into a theatrically and musically immersive production that allows the unlived lives hidden within all the characters to become, momentarily, flesh and blood – giving breath to their prayers and dreams; all their aspirations, for today and tomorrow.