As wonderful as the Mansion is by day, at night it transforms into a stunning theatrical setting which you are about to experience.....
The play “What Was That?” is set in the 19th century. It is based on the true story of the Chirnside family. Brothers, Thomas and Andrew Chirnside came out from Scotland to Australia in 1839.
Told by two fictitious characters; Maggie, the head maid and Mr. Duncan the butler, you will be transported to another time.
The Chirnside's accumulated enormous wealth as squatters, with their sole source of income coming from sheep farming.
Thomas, the elder brother, asked Mary to marry him first but she turned him down. Mary later married his brother, Andrew. Thomas never married, but had the magnificent Werribee Mansion built for Andrew, Mary and their three youngest children. This was completed in 1877. Thomas resided mainly at Point Cook where the Chirnside's also had property. He was a frequent visitor to Werribee Mansion.
About the Play
It is July 1908 and visitors, such as yourselves, are very rare at Werribee Mansion.
The mistress, Mary Chirnside, had died tragically only three weeks ago. Since then there have been many unusual occurrences in the house.
Despite these circumstances, the only two remaining servants, Maggie (the Head Maid) and Mr. Duncan (the Butler) have tried to remain positive. They are awaiting the arrival of their new masters, who have purchased the property.
It is therefore with great excitement that Maggie welcomes you here tonight.
What happens on this night is both inexplicable and most enjoyable. Although Maggie and Mr Duncan's feeling of insecurity is growing this is far outweighed by their senses of humour.
Come along and bring yours!
A note from the author – Alaine Beek
While having been involved in writing, performing and theatre production for many years. Setting a play in a historic mansion did bring a number of unique challenges.
As the Mansion is heritage listed, conservation of the Mansion and its surrounds is of utmost importance. Normal free movement within the building and the technical aspects of light and sound are challenging. It is a fine balance between keeping the risks to an absolute minimum and opening the doors to the public so we can get a glimpse of our Victorian past. Even though it is a very large house, it is filled with small spaces. We decided this play would involve only a small group of up to 26 guests. This enabled us to take them into the many restored rooms. A special part being allowed to have them sitting around the grand dining table (which is not permitted for the general public).
Through regular workshops and fantastic input from my team, this play has evolved over the years. Most the actors have been with me since 2003. Their talent, dedication, professionalism and sense of fun continues to amaze me.
I am deeply thankful to Parks Victoria for giving me the opportunity to produce this play in this magnificent house.
About Werribee Park Mansion
Located 30 minutes West of Melbourne, Werribee Mansion is a living, breathing postcard of 19th century Australia. Wealthy sheep farmers built 'the Mansion'. The Italianate-style architecture and its Victorian period interiors are as inspiring today as when it was completed in 1877.
Werribee Mansion is surrounded by 10 hectares of formal gardens, widely attributed to W.R Guilfoyle, Curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The gardens feature a parterre, which is a geometric garden design best viewed from the mansion balcony, pond and original grotto. The grounds are superbly maintained and there is no trouble finding a shaded spot to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Situated behind Werribee Mansion in a separate wing is the Mansion Hotel and Spa. The luxurious hotel offers five star accommodation with day spa and restaurant for a luxurious getaway.
Within walking distance of Werribee Mansion is the Victoria State Rose Garden. Winner of the prestigious World Federation of Rose Societies Award for Garden Excellence, this internationally acclaimed garden is shaped as a giant Tudor Rose and displays 5000 roses to perfection.
Entry to Werribee Park Formal Garden is free. For more information click here.