REVIEW: 2019 Short Season of Short Plays

' A Certain Age' in the 2019 Short Season of Short Plays. IMAGE: Martin Hodgson

Townsville Little Theatre’s 2019 Short Season of Short Plays opened last night, serving up a trio of light, laugh-packed, little gems.

While the quick turn over of shows ruled out any grand production elements in terms of sets, lighting or costuming; Directors Sonia Zabala and Christine Scott didn’t let that prohibit them from drawing the audience into their respective worlds.

The Devil in the Detail.

One Act Play Written by Amber Harris, Directed by Sonia Zabala.

Every actor will recognise a hint of themselves in this show. And every actor will recognise a hint of someone they’ve worked with.

The Devil in the Detail is a hilariously heightened insight into the push and pull between actors as they rehearse toward a play. Jac (Paula Mandl) and Bernard (Matthew Palmer) have very different approaches to acting. Jac is lines-first and nothing else matters; while Bernard would rather find his character in his props. So when Bernard’s long list of commitments and ill-placed priorities result to a disastrous opening night, things get a little out of hand.

Paula Mandl (The Graduate) is wonderfully aloof as Jac, who nonchalantly recounts the details of her rocky relationship with Bernard to her psychologist, played by Janelle Croft. However, Paula shows Jac is not as emotionally disconnected as she may seem and when her temper blows, it blows. I don’t think any actor who sees this will dare drop a line when they work with Paula from now on.

Matthew Palmer (Les Misarables) makes it easy to understand how an actor as flippant as Bernard could ride so far on charisma. Matthew’s Bernard is dashing and suave, while also infuriatingly inattentive to the bigger picture, his cast mate and his Director.

Bernard’s effects are wonderfully demonstrated by Lara Hodgson (Picnic at Hanging Rock) as the young Director trying to wrangle him. Lara’s tentative mannerisms and delivery of dialogue, along with the occasional lash-flutter, work to show the inner conflict of her character – she’s visibly star-struck by Bernard, while also working hard to keep the peace between her actors and keep the show on the rails.

I honestly forgot Janelle Croft (Nunsense) was acting. She was so natural as a cool, calm psychologist prodding around in her patient’s brain; and convincingly clueless about life in the theatre.

The transition between scenes one and two was notably slow; but for the most part the action between present day and flashback blended seamlessly together thanks to Director Sonia Zabala’s clever positioning of her actors between the tails and tops of each scene.

2019 Short Season of Short Plays
The Cast of ‘The Devil in the Detail’, performed at the 2019 Short Season of Short Plays. IMAGE: Martin Hodgson

 

A Certain Age.

10 Minute Play Written By Julie Johnston, Directed by Sonia Zabala.

I’m not sure whether this play was written to be funny, but it is. It takes some serious subject matter – the societal pressure on women, particularly those of a certain age, to buy into cosmetic surgery and expensive beauty products to keep natural ageing at bay. The action takes place as a woman, played by Tracey Cresswell, prepares for her 40th Birthday Dinner. As she sits at her dressing table her inner monologue/Society begins to nag on her to take action against her crows feet, drooping jowls, chipped tooth, sagging breasts, ageing downstairs… the list goes on.

As the Birthday girl, Tracey Cresswell (Astronomical) is simply endearing. Tracey brings a natural optimism to the role that makes it easy for the audience to side with her against Society’s insults. She slides effortlessly into the role of the ‘Every Woman’ as we see her confidence crack with Society’s continued onslaught, and her sweet vulnerability leak through. Though, I’m sure some of this vulnerability was genuine, with Tracey making some gutsy choices in her role.

Society, played as an ensemble by Lucy Gounaris (Road to Midnight), Kevin Fujii (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Tyzack Daniels (Mother Goose) and Janold Smit, is cruel. Between the players, we see a number of recognisable stereotypes – the It Girl, the Chauvinist, the Mouth, The Funny Guy. All four play their part with the conviction that they’re just being helpful, and are truly despicable.

The audiences mix of gasps and giggles throughout the entire performance were proof of how well this show resonated with all who were watching.

2019 Short Season of Short Plays
The cast of ‘ A Certain Age’ . IMAGE: Martin Hodgson.

 

Destined to Fail.

One Act Play Written by Catherine McKernan-Doris, Directed by Christine Scott.

Pam Snell is wonderful in this show about an abbreviation-illiterate grandmother who’s up for anything (whether she realises it or not). This One Act Play centres on two girlfriends, Chris (Pam Snell) and Jean (Sheeley Keehn), catching up over coffee and Chris’ confessions she’d been on a rather odd date the night before, after placing an ad in the newspaper’s personal columns. Of course, in a bid to save some pennies, Chris had employed some abbreviations in her ad including ‘must have GSOH’, for Gorgeous Stylish Own Home, and ‘enjoy S&M overseas’ for Steak & Mash (obviously!).

Pam makes it impossible not to love Chris. From her blasting Cyndi Lauper through her headphones as the show opens, to her proudly showing off a photo of her conquest – it’s clear this new age grandmother is up with the times and down with the lingo. Meanwhile Shelley plays Jean as that one reliable bestie we all have – she’s the voice of wisdom who call Chris on her bulldust and teases her lovingly for her stupidity. Jean is blunt and cutting, but Shelley brings a lovely warmth to her that builds a believable friendship between the two characters .

Reynold Lookamp makes a few very funny appearances as the poor, blushing waiter who can’t help but overhear the conversation and Rebecca Bloxsom is Chris’ granddaughter, Amy,  who is lovingly perplexed by just how royally Chris has managed to mess it all up.

This show could have benefited from some variation in the blocking. With the entire conversation taking place in a busy café, there’s not a lot of room for movement, but it would have helped to amp up the comedic nature of the script even further. That said, all four actors have bought wonderful vocal and facial expression to their performances to deliver plenty of laughs throughout.

Together, these three shows make for a wonderful night of light entertainment and plenty of laughs.

Catch Townsville Little Theatre’s Short Season of Short Plays at the NQOMT Hall until 28 April 2019. Click here for times and tickets.

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