One of Australia's most compelling maritime stories, in which the power of the human spirit emerged during a colonial plague, comes to life in a one-man show graces Inverell's stage.
Created by a formidable Australian artist: actor, writer and broadcaster Michael Veitch and brought to the region by Arts North West On Tour, Hell Ship: The Journey of the Ticonderoga is a gripping night of live theatre with epic themes that modern audiences will find resonance within.
It will reach Inverell's Town Hall on Saturday March 27, and The Chapel Theatre Glen Innes on Sunday March 28.
Based on Veitch's 2018 book of the same name, this play is set in the spring of 1852 when the clipper Ticonderoga set off from Liverpool to the colony of Victoria, carrying many Scots Highlander families to the New World.
"On the voyage, however, disaster struck when a deadly typhus epidemic erupted throughout her decks, taking scores of her passengers," Veitch said.
"On the high seas, an epic struggle of life and death played out."
According to Veitch's research, a hero emerged in this unfolding tragedy: the ship's surgeon, a young man on his maiden voyage, ably assisted by a brave young woman passenger.
"The couple survived the tragedy, and were soon married," Veitch said.
In Hell Ship, the playwright takes on this doctor's role, retelling this long-forgotten episode half a century after the event.
The drama is made all the more powerful by the fact that this courageous couple were James William Henry Veitch and Annie Morrison, Veitch's very own great-great grandparents.
"Hell Ship is the story of a disaster, and the strength of the human spirit; a family story, but one which brings the history of so many of our brave but forgotten forbears to life," he said.
Veitch is familiar to audiences from his years on comedy shows Fast Forward, Full Frontal and The D-Generation.
Reviewing in Stage Whispers, Cathy Bannisterwrote: "Veitch's story-telling style is tremendously warm and engaging.
The character he draws is not strictly natural, but a beautifully drawn caricature, full of life and compelling to watch.
He has captured a certain musicality of the language as it was written and presumably spoken in the 1800s-those long, rhythmically complex sentences that went out of vogue in the 1900s.
He delivers these lines with comedic timing, moving into rapid fire urgency as the horror of the situation becomes apparent.
As an audience, we come to empathise with ship's inhabitants as we imagine the truly horrific conditions and awful inevitability of what would happen."
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