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Review: Reefer Madness at PACT Erskineville

By Liam Shand Egan

Satire is one of the best ways to gauge the social and political health of a society and this show passes with flying colours… let’s be honest, the colour is mostly green. The overall performance was of such a high calibre, professional companies should consider themselves on notice. Thanks to the leadership of Britt Spry (Producer) and Robert Meek (Director), Reefer Madness highlights the absurdity of propaganda and human behaviour whilst giving audiences as many ‘oh damn’ moments as they can hopefully handle.  The vision behind this show is really something else. The creative team is really swinging for the fences and the passion and energy on display makes for a hugely entertaining show. While the show’s blocking in the first few scenes is very simple, it grounds the rest of the absurdity that occurs throughout. It’s rare to find a production that can generate so many shocked smiles from the audience as this one! The first act of this show features some brilliant dance numbers thanks to choreography by Katie Miller. These numbers really pushed the cast and made great use of the simple staging at the PACT and only added to the surprise factor for me. Finally, technical direction and lighting designs by Daniel Baykitch and Loki McCorquodale respectively was impeccable. Again, this show swings for the fences and smacks it out of the park on almost every metric. Particular cast highlights are male lead Jared Pallesen as the innocent turned feral Jimmy, Eamon Moses as the devious Jack and John Tsakiris as a Jesus that stole the show for every scene he was in. Finally, Gabrielle Rawlings as the Placard Girl is hilarious and makes the act of getting out of the theatre entertaining.  She, along with Moses, also provides the best dance piece of the night. However, the standouts for this show were Jayden Castle as The Lecturer and Rosie Rodrigues as Mary Lane. Castle’s performance as the play’s voice for the War on Drugs (and its father Harry J Anslinger) was brilliant and left me wanting a sequel with just that character talking on stage the entire time. Rodrigues as Mary Lane was incredible with vocals that captivated and performance that leaves nothing to the imagination. She was by far my favourite performer and I look forward to her next role. The entire ensemble is brilliant and it is only for the sake of brevity that I am not naming all cast members.  However, it must be said that there were a few aspects of the show that left a bit more to be desired. The choreography in later parts of the show felt sloppy as dance numbers were performed out of line and made the show look a bit haphazard when it wasn’t the intent of the show. However, this could also be attributed to opening night jitters so I was over that issue fairly quickly.  Reefer Madness is a very silly show about very serious people being very very stupid (read: racist). The show makes many allusions to the true intentions behind early drug legislation and prohibition and director Robert Meek has picked up on every one of them perfectly. This show gave me all that I wanted as an audience member gave me amazing dance numbers, great comedy and beautiful vocals throughout. Tickets have almost sold out but are still available for Saturday night. I urge you to see this show because it is show that had me rolling on the floor (at least as much as PACT’s seating would allow. Congratulations to the entire cast and production team. 

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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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