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Review: The Big Time at Ensemble Theatre

By Rosie Niven

This month, Ensemble Theatre brings to stage the World Premiere of prolific playwright David Williamson’s newest comedy, The Big Time, a play which questions the price of fame and examines the lengths people will go to to be successful in the entertainment industry.

The play follows the lives of Celia and Vicki, two friends that have taken very different paths in the theatre world. Celia is the star of a popular soap drama with a very comfortable life, while Vicki is working in independent theatre and crawling from paycheck to paycheck. As the story unfolds, we watch each character face a crossroads in their career where they ultimately have to choose: do you succeed or do you betray the person you love? Williamson describes The Big Time as a satire steeped in reality, informed by his opinion that unless you are at the top of the entertainment industry, you cannot claim happiness or success. While the themes ultimately sound quite deep, much of what was presented felt like quite a shallow examination of Williamson’s concepts and as such, the characters felt two-dimensional throughout parts of the play.

Much of the strength in this play is found in the razor-sharp dialogue that Williamson provides the actors, allowing each character their shining moment in the comedic spotlight. In particular, Ben Wood delivered a charismatic performance as a man who had come face to face with every hurdle imaginable, but just kept fighting. The audience were in stitches for most of the performance as biting comments about the arts industry turned the mirror on ourselves and we found comfort in the somewhat failed careers of the characters onstage. Each quip was well-timed and delivered with great energy, however a lack of projection and some strained vocals caused a few lines throughout the show to be lost. This interrupted the vibrancy of the production and slowed down the second half of the performance.

Melanie Liertz’s set and Nick Higgins lighting design worked cohesively to create a simple, clean space that allowed for rapid scene changes without actors leaving the stage - a key tool in creating some of the play’s most hilarious moments.

The Big Time cannot be faulted on its design, nor many of its actors, though with powerhouse Mark Kilmurry at the helm, no doubt audiences arrive at the theatre with a certain level of expectation that I believe they may leave with unmet. Ultimately, for a show that is advertised as stylish and sophisticated, this particular production felt too simple for me.

Photo Credit: Brett Broadman

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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