Review by Natalie Low
As you walk into the theatre space, you notice the fairly simple set – walls painted in geometrical various shades of grey, lit by a soft blue. There’s a grey bench, 2 tables, and 2 chairs. As the show begins, you notice that the simple set is deceiving. Cleverly hidden in the set are exits and entrances that are effectively used throughout the play.
The play, written and directed by Bokkie Robertson, plays like it’s You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Constantly breaking the fourth wall, we hear the inner thoughts of teenagers who are figuring life out. The thoughts are funny, relatable, and brings you back to your puberty years. Although there is a little bit of confusion as to how old these teenagers are meant to be given that the words read a little younger than perhaps how the actors are playing them.
You first meet Clive, a teen boy who believes that if you find the other end of the afternoon, you’ll get to time travel. He’s a little odd and quirky, and wears a top hat, and so he gets bullied at school. Particularly by his seatmate, Bianca Zhu – your stereotypical popular high schooler ready with a counter if you ever try to insult her yet filled with insecurities. Clive has a stepbrother, an obnoxious Xavier, the private school attendee whose ambitions are to basically not to be like the father he has. He’s still grieving over the death of his mother, that he believes his father has quickly moved on and thus expresses his grief through rebellion. Furthermore, he's just broken up with his boyfriend, and now his life is in shambles. These 3 leads, played by Sam Wallace, Sophie Teo, and Sam Martin, are performed wonderfully. They exude the perfect balance of teen angst, and curiosity. Even when Bianca begins her journey of self-improvement, Robertson effectively ensures that she still has to hold her past mistakes accountable.
Slowly, you realise that the story begins to surround their other classmate, Dylan, played by Dominique Purdue. Dylan is artistically talented, but frustratedly has to work multiple jobs no thanks to her overbearing mother. She’s at her wits end, and breaks into fights at school because no one seems to understand her plight. Further bullying from Bianca and gang does not help her at all. The show then turns towards Clive, Bianca, and Xavier, helping Dylan get out of her horrible situation, and get her to the other end of the afternoon. While the writing is strong in portraying this sympathetic character, perhaps the performance just slightly misses the mark in making the audience feel and support Dylan’s journey.
Lighting by Dany Akbar is effective and simple, with beautiful late afternoons created onstage, but perhaps was a little too simple in breaking up the scenes and sometimes makes the audience a little confused in the timeline of the show. Sound design by Paris Bell underlies many of the scenes, creating beautifully composed pieces that carries the emotional undertone of the scenes.
Direction by Robertson is sharp and concise, considering how many exits and entrances there are. Though there are scenes that are so emotionally different, it provides some slight whiplash for an audience, she allows time for the audience to sit in the emotions at the right time.
Overall, The Other End of the Afternoon is an enjoyable piece, with some outstanding ensemble work, and heartwarming writing with a cute twist ending.
Image Credit: Troy Kent