Review by Mish Graham
The young audience is lead into a black box space and instructed to sit at the front, with assurance from the very loud usher, that there is no audience participation. The Studio Theatre hosts 60 patrons and was close to full capacity. The stage was set reminiscent of a year 12 drama class. With coats on a rack, a couple of chairs and a few off-white crates. A boy rushes on stage with fake roses and a box of chocolates in hand. He fixes his hair and changes his coat in quick succession. He seems to be preparing for a date. He trembles so, that it leaves you wondering if he’s actually confident in his acting choices or merely a nervous actor. An uncomfortable and unconvincing start to the play unfortunately.
One aspect where the play fall short was by employing actors that looked younger than the age of the characters themselves. In casting they also missed opportunities for a diverse age-range (they all appeared to be in their early/mid- twenties). The show seemed full of stereotypes without nuance. REG - hopeless romantic, JESS- teacher’s pet, DIANA- ditsy/provocative, MAX- control freak, CHIP- jock/airhead, DEXTER goofy/class clown and alternative/‘mysterious’ girl - RAMONA. Played by Campbell Connelly, who seemed as though she was bored and would rather be smoking a real cigarette, literally anywhere else. Speaking of smoking, why opt for herbal cigarettes that smell disgusting and have no relation to the smell of actual cigarettes? All that did was cause a distraction for the audience, especially when class clown struggled (by looks of it, unintentionally) to light his. The production could have benefited by considering all the human senses. I’m just unsure why the cigarettes were such a repetitive moment… Perhaps it would have been wiser to invest in real roses.
Some mystery would have been great, secrecy even! It was set in the 60’s, ‘in an era where queer relationships were widely condemned and still criminalised in every Australian state.’ There was no tension in being ‘caught’ or ‘found out’, this could be a directing issue; feasibly not the only directing issue. The wardrobe was the one thing that made this play distinctively 60’s (congratulations Adele Cattenazzi). The light was unremarkable. The sound was jarring. Blocking was predictable. In fact, there was no mystery, unfortunately with each scene that unfolded, the play became as predictable as a happy meal.
Being a Shrew Loose Production, I was hoping for a play that considered their audience to have some intellectual capabilities. That would encourage curiosity and conversation around who we were in Australian culture, during the sixties but it wasn’t to be. If the production were to develop further, I’d encourage more of what was interesting; the Greek tragedy element. In addition to flesh out the characters to ensure that the actors have more to work with and could possibly become convincing… unless it was meant to be melodrama?
The reality is that I am not the targeted demographic and it did seem to resonate with some younger audience members around me. I heard these, as well as other, comments during interval, “It’s so cute” and “I like that it’s gay.” If you fall into the category of humans who say things like that, perhaps it is the perfect play for you.