While Cosi often overshadows Summer of the Aliens as Louis Nowra’s most well-known play, the latter is a personal favourite. Addressing all the most prominent issues of angsty teens (including whether or not aliens exist) as well as a serious behind-closed-doors look at broken families, it can be extremely powerful when performed well.
Which is exactly what Full Throttle Theatre Company has managed to do.
Directed by Madonna Davies and starring both the theatre group’s freshest and most experienced performers, Summer of the Aliens managed to shock us, make us laugh, and leave us walking out of the Old Courthouse lost for words.
The principal roles showed experience beyond their years: I must admit I was skeptical after meeting Enya Flett earlier this year knowing she would be taking on Summer’s exuberant tomboy, Dulcie: but Enya’s timidness disappears completely underneath the outlandish, ocker character she plays. Her gung-ho attitude drives the performance forward, which makes the confronting scene with her stepfather, when she doesn’t say a word, so much more powerful: everything from her expressionism to her accent was spot on, and I cannot congratulate Enya enough on her second ever Full Throttle production.
The protagonist, Lewis, is played by Finn Newsway – and I have to say, Finn’s reactions and facial expressions alone were enough to leave us laughing in our seats. Finn fully embodies the alien-hunting, female-apathetic personality of Lewis, and nails the character’s innocence, awkwardness and humility. Townsville’s talent pool is extremely rich at the moment: Finn wasn’t just rattling off lines and moving across the stage as rehearsed, he was Lewis; he was in the zone, he performed incredibly well, and I can’t wait to see him in future productions.
Bailey Purse is the unsung hero of the performance. Taking on the role of Lewis’ best friend Brian, Bailey made the character his own – and whenever he was on stage, he was a standout. With a funny and outlandish exterior that cracks every now and then as we’re given an insight into Brian’s personal life, Bailey is an incredibly powerful actor who can shift from perfectly-timed comedy to something more sombre in the blink of an eye.
Lewis’ life at home influences him more and more throughout the performance, with his grandmother, played by Barbara White, growing up with him – she begins losing her memories as Lewis’ own views of the world expand. We still cannot sing praises of Barbara enough: this is the second Full Throttle production she has been a part of while nursing a broken arm, but takes on the role with vivacity and doesn’t let it affect her performance at all, making her another comedic standout.
Accolades also to Stephen Duffie, who not only delivers (pun intended) a great performance as neighbourhood postman Mr Pisano, but takes on the role of Dulcie’s stepfather, Mr Irvan. Stephen is polar opposites for each character: from the friendly and funny Pisano to the demanding and cruel Irvan. Stephen and Enya should both be commended for the confronting but respectful way they tackled the bedroom scene; the pain in Enya’s face was heartbreaking; and it was an intensely powerful moment.
Summer of the Aliens left us feeling uncomfortable – in all the places we’re sure Full Throttle intended it to. The play goes so much deeper than simple, true blue comedy, and addresses a lot of issues that strike a chord with many teenagers growing up: everything from family trouble, to dealing with puberty and making sense of international conflict, these are elements that are evergreen, and which have left the production maintaining the same integrity as it had when Nowra wrote it decades ago.
Our sincerest thanks and congratulations go to Full Throttle Theatre Company: it’s not often you walk away from a production not knowing how to react – and Lewis Nowra’s plays are a perfect example, making you want to laugh and recoil in shock in the space of a scene. Summer may still be a few weeks away, but it has already arrived in force at the Old Courthouse Theatre.
Rocket in to see Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Summer of the Aliens at the Old Courthouse Theatre from 8-12 November, with tickets available here.