Sunnytown (La Boite Indie and Shot in the Dark)
La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre
October 14 – 31
“Sunnytown” is an interesting, quirky and odd little play, entirely befitting its place as the first work of La Boite’s 2015 Indie series, which aims in its presentation of a collection of four independent plays to nurture a sustainable independent theatre culture in Brisbane, create more rigorous theatre and cultivate new audiences.
With only 90 audience members at each performance, the show’s intimate atmosphere certainly suits this agenda, although it perhaps belies the complexity of the show’s themes. From entry in the no-longer-roundhouse space, it is clear that the stage is set for a party. It is Danika Hart’s 13th birthday and as her overprotective mother fusses over its details, the birthday girl is more focussed on spending time with her best friend Miranda, at the expense of the other (unseen) guests.
With overbearing mother Marg (Caroline Dunphy), daggy dad-joke father Jim (Ron Kelly) and apathetic teenager, the show seems set to take a naturalistic course, however, there is soon an escalation in gravity from its simple beginnings. As her parents begin their bickering, Dani (Olivia Hall-Smith) ‘glimmers’ to another realm as she attempts suppress their battles into a imagined Wonderland-esque world.
While to others, she appears to be in a trance, internally she is immersed into an imaginative world, from which only Miranda can urge her back to reality. While this provides an ultimate, perhaps predictable plot twist, up until this point events are chaotic and difficult to follow. The work is not always effortless in its realisation and initially enigmatic references to things like Dani’s ‘glimmering’ make it hard work for the audience, who is then confronted by a work that alternates between her troubled, dysfunctional home-life and the escapist subconscious retreat in which she must navigate the complex layers of the Sunnytown Municipal Extravaganza Mall. however, it is not always effortless in its realisation.
The fragmentary nature of these surreal scenes impacts upon cohesion as, for example, characters strip to the underwear while scratching away at themselves or Dani’s mother proclaims herself as the Queen of France. Of greater effect than the bizarre physical theatre, Guy Webster’s sound and Jason Glenwright’s lighting work well together to capture the hyper subconscious experience, presenting a clear contrast from the production’s other, domestic world.
Each of the show’s four performers does an admirable job, however, of most note is Vanessa Krummenacher as Dani’s fierce and free-spirited friend Miranda, always eager to push Dani’s limits. Not only is she convincing in her teenage bravado, but in interaction with Hall-Smith as Dani, she crafts a performance that in entirely credible in its adolescence, down even to finest details of posture and interaction.
“Sunnytown” takes an everyday suburban story and energisers it with exploration of the cycles of the domestic, alcohol and emotional abuse that disturb the childhood of so many within contemporary families. Despite its subject matter, it is quite comic and a weirdly uplifting and empowering experience thanks to its use of art as an avenue for societal comment and bold exploration of potentially close-to-home conflict.
Photos c/o – https://www.facebook.com/LaBoiteTheatreCompany