In 1991 actor/writer/director Malcolm Frawley initiated a fortnightly improvisation workshop involving a variety of other actors and writers (including still current regulars Brett Danalake and Chris Galletti). The aim was to meet regularly and develop and hone impro skills and to possibly develop and workshop scripts. The unnamed group worked in studios at Ultimo, Newtown, Annandale and Glebe before moving, in 2002, to the studios of Action Acting in Rozelle.
During the period at Glebe, in the Greek Street premises of Keane Kids and Gala Studios, Malcolm converted one of the studios into an in-the-round theatre in which student showcases could be performed. As Drama Co-ordinator of the Studios, Malcolm enjoyed unlimited access to an affordable performing space and the impro group metamorphosed into Ferknerkle Productions - a co-operative theatre group.
In September 1998 two new Australian short plays – Right Place, Wrong Time and Simon Says - were premiered by the newly-formed co-op. Over the next three and a half years the company mounted more than two dozen productions in the space at Glebe, most of which were world premieres of new Australian work written by (or for) members of the group.
“New” writers Brett Danalake, Jean Dixon, Darren James and Claire Gandy all seized the opportunity to have their first plays (and more) professionally produced. Peter Fleming, an experienced playwright and close associate of the group, also wrote two plays specifically for the Greek Street venue.
All productions were cast from within the Company where possible but outside actors were often employed. Core company members enjoyed a tremendous variety of roles during this period, delighting regular audiences with the range of characters portrayed. Brett Danalake, Claire Gandy and Fairlie Adams-Hamilton also mounted their first productions as fledgling directors.
Ferknerkle also committed itself to an ongoing mentorship scheme, through which Malcolm introduced promising young actors from his Keane Kids teen classes to the group, initially operating lighting and/or sound. Ellie Saffron, Katrina Harrison, Olivia Solomons, Kim Blumenthal and Jade Muratore all enjoyed their first experiences in professional theatre at age 15. Eventually, Ellie, Katrina, Olivia and Kim were awarded the invaluable opportunity of performing in plays with seasoned professionals. Jade later composed the musical score for our short film See Of Love.
In early 2002 the Greek Street premises were sold and both Keane Kids and Ferknerkle productions were forced to vacate. At this point the regular (new shows, and usually new plays, every six weeks!) performances came to a grinding halt. Only one production was staged that year, a revival of Famous Last Words (written and directed by Mal) coupled with a series of structured improvisations entitled Ferking About at Studio 1 in Uni of NSW.
In 2003 two more revivals were successfully staged at the Cat And Fiddle Hotel – King Of The Castle and Speaking Of Nothing (both written and directed by Brett).
In 2004 we entered Newtown Theatre’s Short & Sweet Festival with the specially-written (by Mal) Previously On.
2005 saw two new pieces at Short & Sweet – It’s Not You (by Brett and company associate Iain Triffitt) and Single Selfish Act (by Mal).
Remember This by Iain and Brett was our 2006 Short & Sweet entry. They had a second play – Faithless – also in competition.
In August 2006 we staged our first ever fund raiser, a fabulously successful trivia Night held at Gladesville R.S.L. Club. We attracted 120 supporters and raised nearly $2,500 during a great night’s entertainment.
In December 2006 Brett directed Mal’s play A Delicate Egg in our triumphant return to the professional theatre. Zoe Carides starred in this entrant in Darlinghurst Theatre’s In The Raw season.
In 2007 Brett and Iain again provided our Short & Sweet words, through their outrageous comedy The Entrée Was Death for which we were selected Best Independent Theatre Company.
Later on in 2007, after yet another lucrative fund-raiser ($2,000 this time), Ferknerkle staged an audacious “season” of two plays at Newtown Theatre. Brett and Iain’s hilarious new work Gone Bush played for two weeks before the space was handed over to a revival of Mal’s satirical play Sniper for a further fortnight. Both productions, by co-op standards, were very successful. In fact, Ferknerkle has yet to stage a production that doesn’t make money.
2008 saw the Ferknerkle team, after 10 years of virtually continuous work, take an entire year off, both from production and regular impro workshops.
But, as of January 2009, we are back!