4 Devils and a Woman in Red
TWIN CINEMA: 4 Devils and a Woman in Red is a two-part exhibition and community theatre project centred on cinema memories in the rural Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia.
Presented in 2014 at Latrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell, the TWIN CINEMA exhibition compiled and transformed remnants and memories from old or vanished cinemas in the Gippsland region.
Directed by Darren McCubbin and performed by the residents of Yarram, the six-act play by Lily Hibberd 4 DEVILS: Hell and High Water revived the forgotten tale of Ma Thompson, the once-notorious founder of Yarram Regent Theatre, the town's famous cinema.
Photo of Yarram life-long resident Elsie Cunningham with her debutante photo, taken in The Regent Theatre by Lily Hibberd, 2014.
Latrobe Regional Gallery exhibition, 2014
During a year-long residency for The Cinemas Project, curated by Bridget Crone and commissioned by NETS Victoria, Lily Hibberd collected local stories, objects, posters and photographs from surviving and lost cinemas across the Gippsland region. These objects were activated in the TWIN CINEMA exhibition at Latrobe Regional Gallery through videos, object displays, and cinema-scale reproductions of the auditoriums and screens of the disappeared theatres of Yallourn and Morwell Town Hall cinema – the site of the exhibition itself in the present day Latrobe Regional Gallery.
Movie theatres in the Latrobe Valley's industrial towns have long been the focus of community life, yet since the early 1980s many of its local cinemas were lost to "progress”. Yet, cinema stories and the power of memory to resist loss and to hold people together persists, a practice that provided the core materials for this exhibition.
The exhibition was entirely produced on the power of memory and the objects in which people preserve them. It featured extensive local memorabilia donated by museums and residents and a replica original 1939 projector from Yallourn Theatre reconstructed by local projectionist and collector Peter Ricketts. Dozens of memories were also posted directly onto a full-scale photograph of the Yallourn theatre during its demolition.
Photos by Sam Nightingale, Lily Hibberd and Din Heagney.
As curator Bridget Crone writes in The Cinemas Project publication, the "woman in red" of the exhibtion title 'is Margaret or “Ma" Thompson who built the Regent; the 4 devils refers to F W Murnau’s 4 Devils, the first film screened at the Regent at its opening in 1930; and, finally, "Twin Cinema" makes reference to the Village Twin in Morwell – long abandoned but fondly remembered. This project also calls up the nature of memory itself, for every lost theatre has its twin in the township's recollections, memories projected in place of the missing screen.’ - by Bridget Crone, also fondly remembered.
The room guide for the TWIN CINEMA exhibition is available here to download. It includes a complete inventory of all the artefacts on display in the six vitrines, supplied by local museums, cinema historian and collector Peter Ricketts, and other local residents.
For over a year, Lily Hibberd met with communities and visited museums, houses, and reunions to collect cinema stories from residents of the Latrobe Valley. Many people shared memories: the people of the former State Electric Corporation (SEC) town of Yallourn and those who remained there during the 2014 coal mine fire crisis in Morwell. These are complied in the 1-hour movie of fantastic movie memories below.
Movie Memory Day
Staged within the exhibition itself, the CINEMORIA public event brought members of the Gippsland community together for a memorabilia swap-meet and memory day at Latrobe Regional Gallery on Saturday 3 May 2014.
Photos by Sam Nightingale and Din Heagney.
Hell and High Water
a play in six acts
4 Devils – Hell and High Water, is a play in six acts written by Lily Hibberd and directed by Darren McCubbin, presented by The Regent Theatre, Yarram, and Gippsland Regional Arts. The play was developed from Lily Hibberd's extensive research into the history of Yarram's Regent Theatre and its former life as the town's much-loved cinema. Central to this story is the theatre's founder Margaret or "Ma" Thompson – a mythical figure in Yarram to this day!
Ma's story is restaged through another tale retold, that of the "4 Devils", the first movie to be screened on the opening night of the Regent Theatre on 18 June 1930. The "4 Devils" has its own story, as this 1929 F W Murnau film is famous today because it all prints were lost in a fire.
In a one-night live show performed by the residents of Yarram, some of the key characters behind Yarram's picture theatre come back from the past to revive the lost film and the ghosts of The Regent Theatre.
In the early stages of her research, Lily Hibberd discovered that no-one was certain what the infamous Regent Theatre founder Ma Thompson actually looked like. There were rumours of a portrait. Lily made it her mission to track this down through a distant cousin. A reproduction was installed in the foyer of The Regent and unveiled at the opening night of the 4 Devils play in 2014.
The complete script for the 4 DEVILS play by Lily Hibberd is available here to download.
This script was reproduced as part of THE CINEMAS PROJECT publication, edited by Bridget Crone and published by the National Exhibitions Touring Scheme (NTES) Victoria in 2015. Design and layout by Modern Activity.
4 Devils - Hell and High Water
A silent movie
This short silent film, shot and produced in Yarram, perpetuates the myths and tales of its cinema, and of fire and flood in the small town. It centres on the story of “Ma" Thompson, the woman who built The Regent, the town's picture theatre. This tale is woven with that of the '4 Devils', the first film to be screened at the Theatre in 1930. '4 Devils' was a silent film made in 1929, by FW Murnau, one of the most famous silent films because all its prints were lost in a fire.
This 12-minute experimental video was produced in 2014 in collaboration with Yarram community members, including performances by Margery Missen and Holly Johnson.