Playing with premise

Playing Pretend (The Big Crew)

Woolloongabba Substation

May 10 – 12


“A group of young, hungry artists, bare it all in this hilarious, tell-all expose on the trials and triumphs of life as a struggling artist in the Brisbane Indie Theatre scene.” This is how “Playing Pretend” is blurbed in the Anywhere Festival program. And when it sticks to this as a narrative premise The Big Crew production works very well as Veda, Korey, Trent and James consider the cost and value of a university arts degree and the reality of networking and auditioning for roles. Less successful to its overall cohesion are scenes that stray from this, such as a sensational reflection of the burdensome experience of everyday life and work, and undergraduate overthinking of everything.

The foursome are young, newly-trained, ambitious actors for which fate has other plans. Caught in an after-graduation creative vacuum, they find themselves forced to reconsider everything they thought they knew about themselves, with one big question looming large– Where do they go from here? In exploration of this, there is discussion of the questions, judgements and stereotypes that are associated with a life in the arts and therein lies the show’s truth.

Featuring (mostly) true stories, “Playing Pretend” is an ultimately heartfelt take on the highs and lows of life as a young artist, however, this honesty takes a while to emerge, and doesn’t appear to be fully realised until its stay-with-you, emotional ending. Regardless of its promised premise, this is a play about being yourself and the spirit of youthful purpose. Its setting is appropriately minimal, allowing for focus on the real-life stories on show… chairs on stage affront a row of requisite (empty) wine bottles which the characters later drink, however, a changing light show as backdrop to initial character introductions is not only unnecessary, but serves as a distraction for the dialogue being delivered.

A show about being an artist in Brisbane is an interesting premise. “Playing Pretend” is, however, more about artist experiences in general and it could perhaps benefit from some specificity to enhance its uniqueness and add to audience appeal. Still, despite its slips, there is something here worth exploring, even for those not in the arts. Indeed, if you have ever overpaid for an unnecessary university textbook, misquoted some Shakespeare or believed yourself to be suffering an early-life existential crisis, there is perhaps something in “Playing Pretend” for you.

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