Review by Lauren Donikian
Sometimes friends are the family you choose for yourself, and in Euphoria this rings true. This play is about a rural town in South Australia, the people within it and what can be accomplished when a community comes together.
Written by award winning playwright Emily Steel, Euphoria has been a labour of love for over 5 years. After travelling across regional South Australia and speaking to members of its communities Steel created a play that is honest, compassionate, and funny. Exploring mental health issues that exist in these communities was of high importance to Steel and is highlighted throughout the play.
This 2 hander stars Ashton Malcom and James Smith. They play multiple characters throughout the performance, changing their physical attributes, tone and confidence or lack of. It is a thrill to watch these two on stage. The rapport between these actors is clear and the ‘got your back attitude’ is heightened by the story they play out. We first see Malcolm as Meg, a teacher in a rural community that is trying to organize a fair. The audience is addressed as members, and whilst not directly spoken to it feels nice to be included. The energy that she holds in Meg in the opening scene feels like a bubble that is about to burst. She is excitable and positive, but this attitude changes throughout the play and you can see the sparkle fade as her mental health takes its toll. Malcolm is honest in her delivery; she understands these characters and is gracious with them. Smith, who we first meet as Ethan is a down on his luck teen that is trying to find his place in the world. He starts off timidly, but this changes throughout the play as his confidence builds. Smith is an incredible chameleon and the fluidity that he has when changing characters is enchanting. Whether he is moving parts of the set or watching from behind it he is in character (well a character). You would think that it would be hard to distinguish which character is being played, but Malcolm and Smith have an uncanny way of morphing into these different people.
The set acts as a character as it changes from your typical looking community town hall, with wooden walls and flyers on a board, to a stage at a county fair. There are so many moving parts. Besides doors, there are parts of the set that can be pushed out to create more space, sliding boards that act as shutters to a shop, and lights around frames to highlight the area and make sure the focus is on the right place. The lighting changes throughout the play with soft pink hues at the start to red when there is anger. Sound effects play a big part also as there is a boom like noise that is played whenever a scene changes. This acts as a reset, not just for the audience but the actors as well as it signifies a new character and potentially a new space that needs to be reflected through the set. There are also props that are used for multiple reasons, a ladder is just a ladder, or is it?
Overall, I was flawed by this performance, and its story. It is relatable, heartbreaking at times but full of hope. You empathize with these characters as they are written so well that none of it feels forced or fake. It is a true example of what living in a small town feels like. The good, the bad, the ugly and the heart that makes the community stronger.