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Review: Coram Boy at KXT

By Adam Stepfner

Coram Boy, adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson and based on the novel by Jamila Gavin, tells a story spanning three generations about loss, mothers and daughters, children lost and found, betrayal, love and murder. Directors John Harrison and Michael Dean have put together an impressive ensemble cast: Joshua McElroy, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Ryan Hodgson, Joshua Wiseman, Lloyd Allison-Young, Ariadne Sgouros, Emma O'Sullivan, Amanda Stephens-Lee, Violette Ayad, Annie Stafford, Rebecca Abdel-Messih, Petronella Van Tienen, Suz Mawer, Andrew Den and Tinashe Mangwana, combined with various technical elements such as originally composed music, puppetry and advanced lighting.

John Harrison and Michael Dean have done a tremendous job working with such a large cast, especially considering the small space they had to perform in. The use of ensemble work during transitions or as complete scenes themselves was astonishing to watch on stage. Both directors have worked effectively with the cast in ensuring fluidity in spite of the commotion on stage. Their presentation of this work just felt so right thanks to a vision that was incredibly clear and flawlessly executed through the work of the cast and creative team. The cast worked together harmoniously with every performer truly delivering fantastic work. Standout performances for me came from Annie Stafford as Melissa, Violette Ayad as Isobel, Ryan Hodgson as Alexander and Amanda Stephens-Lee as Lady Ashbrook. These 4 performances in particular were so well balanced and nuanced, giving us the depth of character that draws us in and makes us follow them, empathise, laugh and cry, it's outstanding work from these 4, and the whole ensemble.

Set design by John Harrison was simple but effective, using the KXT stage to it's full capacity with not an inch of space wasted. Benjamin Brockman's lighting was a huge standout in this production. The lighting for me tied the whole show together, whether it's evoking a sense of mood or atmosphere, shining light on one person/people or just simple adding nuance to the visual landscape of the show. Ebony Anne Zderic's puppets added great movement and depth to the space. Although not heavily featured, when used, it's used well and makes sense in the context of what Coram Boy accomplishes. Costume Design by Suzanne Millar, Sonia McAlpine and Cleary O'brien-Boots was simple but effective in conveying the time and period the piece is set in. With a mainly white, brown, navy colour palette and a Victorian-esque dress code, the costume design worked perfectly for the characters and the piece. Original composition by Nate Edmonson was impressive, and created a great sensory experience as an audience member. With various classical style pieces paired together with choir harmonies the sound design has a massive pay-off, and its contribution to the piece is completely necessary.

Coram Boy is phenomenal. It's more than just a show, it's a theatrical experience, and it cannot be missed. Playing at KXT until December 7th, I would highly recommend this show to all Sydney theatre-goers, but don't miss it, because trust me, you'll regret it.

Image Credit: Clare Hawley

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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