ACTOR Luke Hewitt is determined to find some good in his character Theodore Lent in the world premiere of emerging WA playwright Nathaniel Moncrieff’s work A Perfect Specimen.
“I have to try and find some good in this man because everybody in history believes they are doing the right thing, even Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump,” Hewiit said.
“You just need to go to the script Nathaniel has written and faithfully tell the story.”
Moncrieff’s A Perfect Specimen, presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company, is based on the tragic true story of Mexican woman Julia Pastrana, who suffered from two medical conditions that covered her entire body in hair and gave her a pronounced jaw and big teeth.
When her mother died, Pastrana’s uncle sold her to a circus operator, who then sold her to Lent, who married her and toured his wife in a ‘freak show’ around the USA and Europe in the early to mid 1800s.
They had a child together who was born with the same conditions; both mother and infant died within days due to complications.
“Julia’s death in 1860 didn’t stop Theodore, who found a Russian doctor experimenting with mummification; he mummified Julia and the baby, put them in glass cases and continued to tour them around and exhibit them,” Hewitt said.
“He was a businessman and worshipped the god of money his whole life.
“Over time he grew affection for her and I think that turned into a love of a sort, but he couldn’t separate Julia from business and I think that’s what sent him mad in the end.
“There’s a great story that before he was admitted to the asylum, he was seen on the bridge over the river in St Petersburg, tearing up all his money, throwing it into the river and screaming unintelligible exclamations.”
A Perfect Specimen follows the journey from Pastrana’s pregnancy until Lent’s death, which didn’t prevent Pastrana being exhibited until 1976.
A movement began to get her repatriated back to her Mexican village and she was finally buried in a Catholic ceremony in 2013.
Actor Adriane Daff plays Pastrana, while Rebecca Davis is acrobat – and Lent’s mistress – Marian Trumbull.
The production is directed by Davis’s husband Stuart Halusz, most recently seen in BSSTC’s Angels in America.
“There are some points, purely for the drama and structure of the play that have been fictionalised, but the main threads of her true story are all there,” Hewitt said.
“Nathaniel said he was almost ready to leave writing and this script was his last attempt before throwing it all in.
“I’m glad this script had found success, because if this is anything to go by, he has a long future ahead of him.”
What: A Perfect Specimen
Where: Studio Underground
When: June 30 to July 17