22 March 2019

From Murrah to Guernsey for Patrick Dickson and ‘Victor Ego'

| Elka Wood
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Maeliosa Stafford directs Patrick Dickson in ‘Victor Ego or The Brainstorm,’ which will be performed at the Murrah Hall 28-31 March before being toured in the UK. Picture: provided.

Murrah-based actor Patrick Dickson has a very familiar face. He could be your friend’s dad. Or your son’s friend. Maybe someone you used to work with?

Dickson laughs as he explains his familiarity to the Australian public, “I was the reason Pippa left in ‘Home and Away’ and I was Sigrid Thornton’s ex-husband who happened to be bonking her sister in ‘Seachange.'”

A sea change of his own brought Patrick and his family to the Murrah, between Bermagui and Tathra, but the Far South Coast is not his first ocean-side home – he grew up on the Island of Guernsey in the UK and will tour his one-man play ‘Victor Ego or The Brainstorm’ there in April.

The play had its debut season at the Murrah Hall in July last year and will run for a second season at the end of the month prior to Patrick departing overseas.

The wild island country of Guernsey is recreated on the set of ‘Victor Ego or The Brainstorm’ using Hugo’s own artwork, animated by Scott Baker. Picture: provided.

Touring the play in Guernsey in April is no accident – the subject of the play, Victor Hugo, author of ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ lived there for 15 years from 1855 in a grand house on the hill, exiled from his home in France.

“The house – Hauteville – is very ornate and is topped with a glass-sided studio where Hugo worked. This room is the setting of the play,” Patrick explains “and the house has just attracted a multi-million Euro refurbishment and will re-open in mid-April, so it seemed like a good time to tour there.”

The ornate ocean-view studio occupied by Victor Hugo for 15 years from 1855 on the island of Guernsey. Picture: provided.

Growing up in Guernsey, a place Patrick likens to small coastal towns in NSW in that ‘everyone knows each other,’ Patrick was captured by the story of Hugo who was by all accounts “an insufferable man.”

“That’s why I called the play ‘Victor Ego,’ – because he seems to have had this very strong sense of himself, a sense of entitlement,” Patrick says “his family motto was ‘Ego Hugo’ and half his family went mad around him.”

However, like his contemporary Charles Dickens, Hugo was occupied by social justice and this was the reason for his exile from France during the French Revolution.

With nothing but time on his hands, the novel Hugo penned at Hauteville House, ‘The Toilers of the Sea’ had “five chapters about storms – because he was a show-off,” says Patrick dryly and it is this sense of time, spaciousness and creativity that Patrick explores in ‘Victor Ego.’

Patrick Dickson as Victor Hugo at the Murrah hall in July 2018. Picture: provided.

The play, which revolves around Hugo brainstorming his latest [fictional] best-selling novel is “intercut with Hugo penning letters to his friend, to his mistress, and to his publisher. We discover how the lived experience of the writer impacts the creative process and how his own love, pain, and frustration finds its way on to the page,” says Patrick.

Confessing that Hugo is not an easy read [he has recorded several audiobooks of Hugo’s work to make it more accessible], Patrick hopes that his production will provide a window into a period of history and inspire the audience to ask questions about Hugo [“a genius”] and his island life at Gurnsey.

“Despite all his foibles and his state of exile, when Hugo died in 1885, two million people came to his funeral,” marvels Patrick.

“What we know is really very little, but we have our imaginations to fill the blanks of history – Art is when you engage the audience’s imagination,” Dickson says “that is your greatest resource as an artist.”

‘Victor Ego or The Brainstorm’ will be performed at the Murrah Hall on the Bermagui/Tathra Rd on Thursday, March 28 and Friday the 29th at 7 pm and on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st at 3 pm.

Duration: Approx 2hrs including interval. Tickets: $25 to $15 online via TryBooking or at the door.

Check the website for more information.

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Patrick’s performance is brilliant. We are lucky to see such theatre locally. Don’t miss this show!

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