Anniversary score!

Oklahoma! (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Crete Street Theatre

November 16 – December 1

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If there is one thing people know about Rodgers and Hammerstein, it is that they wrote incredibly catchy songs. This was the case from the musical theatre writing team’s first collaboration “Oklahoma!” and the enduring popularity the show is certainly evident in the capacity audience at Beenleigh Theatre Company’s 40th Anniversary production.

Under Conductor Julie Whiting, the 13-strong orchestra soars the audience through the musical’s memorable melodies in its lush and full overture, as its strings glide us into the opening scene of a golden hazed meadow with corn as high as an elephant’s eye. Even with the buoyancy of ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’’ and ‘The Surrey with the Fringe on Top’, however, it takes a little while for the show to find its feet and natural dialogue rhythm of pace and pause to move the story along.

The ground-breaking musical presents a classic narrative: in 1906, in the Native American Territory that wouldn’t become the state of Oklahoma until later that same year, two men, cowboy Curly McLain (Connor Hawkins) and farmhand Jud Fry (Lachlan Clark), fight for the affections of farm girl Laurey Williams (Samantha Paterson).

The book musical evokes a range of audience emotions, including laughter. Allison Pattinson’s comic timing as the no-nonsense, respected community leader Aunt Eller sets this tone alongside Josh Cathcart’s simple, sprightly Will Parker who, having just returned from Kansas City, is full of happy-go lucky youthful exuberance in his quest to keep 50 dollars in his pocket to be allowed to marry the ‘Can’t Say No’ young Ado Annie (Terri Woodfine). Woodfine herself has perhaps the most fun on stage as the flighty, feisty Ado Annie who is in the terrible fix of trying to decide between cowboy Parker and a Persian traveling salesman Ali Hakim (Mike Zarate).

The significance of “Oklahoma!” as a musical milestone in its integration of songs and dances into the story often leads to consideration of only its quaint numbers, however, it is a show full of dark undertones. Beenleigh Theatre Group’s “Oklahoma” touches on this, through presentation of ranch hand Jud as more menacing outsider than misunderstood loner. Despite his fearful character, however, Clark allows his voice to shine through. Equally excellent, Hawkins brings a naturalness to his moments as the affable and charming cowboy Curly. His rich and resonant vocals are reminiscent of matinee-idol Howard Keel himself and they provide a solid base for blend with Paterson’s accomplished sound in the romantic duo’s playful duet, ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’.

Ultimately, “Oklahoma” is all about the music and some songs work better than others and are rightly reprised. While ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ sets the sunny tone that sweeps the audience into the score, ‘Poor Jud is Dead’, where Curly goes to the squalid shack where Jud lives to talk with him, is despicable in content, with Curly’s suggestion that since Jud does not feel appreciated, he could hang himself. Not only does the scene potentially stand in direct contradiction to any unknowing audience expectations of lightweight entertainment, but it drags an already-long Act One out even more.

Act Two emerges as a livelier affair, uplifting, warm and full of infectious energy. While its fight scenes sometimes fail to connect (#literally), there is much wit to its rousing, brass-filled opening chorus number, ‘The Farmer and The Cowman’. Indeed, the second act zings with humour and song, including the titular celebration of the territory’s impending statehood, which stands as a show highlight thanks to Hawkin’s gusto lead vocals.

Although lighting evokes the varied emotions of the end-of-Act-One dream becoming nightmare sequence that sees a confused Laurey imagining a life with Curly and then Jud, its leisurely choreography is now more nostalgic than innovative. Though not a choreographic highlight like the social dance inspired ‘The Farmer and The Cowman’, the dance still tells a story, so remains necessary for the narrative’s progression.

Although the show is longer than the usual musical length, at over three hours duration, Act Two’s action at least zips along under Mardi Schon’s direction. As such, the tribute to the American frontier seems very much like a show of two distinct halves, dark and torrid subtext and folksy romanticism and optimism of community spirit. The poise between respect and irreverence may not convey a precisely defined vision, but the show’s stylish orchestrations provide a fitting homage, contagiously celebratory in its special anniversary conclusion which, in matinee performance, saw many of the Group’s 1978 cast members joining on stage with the large cast of contemporary counterparts.

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Nothin’ but a rockin’ good time

Rock of Ages (Phoenix Ensemble)

Pavilion Theatre

October 5 – 27

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“Rock of Ages” is a jukebox musical built around classic rock songs of the 1980s (especially those of the glam metal bands of the decade), curated together to fit the admittedly-thin narrative. It may not be a musical for the purists, but, in its celebration of rock and roll excess, in Phoneix Ensemble’s hands, its experience is nothin’ but a good time.

It is 1987, in the city build on rock and roll. Along Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Strip, the fictional Bourbon Bar celebrates rock ‘n’ roll debauchery as the lifestyle of dreamers. Busboy and aspiring musician from South Detroit, Drew (Adam Goodall) just wants to rock, but every musical needs a love story so enter innocent small-town Kansas girl Sherrie (Jayde Bielby). Of course Drew has been waiting for a girl like her, but before a budding romance can begin, she engages in a bathroom tryst, wanting to know what love is, with rock god Stacee Jazz (Stevie Mac).

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When Act Two opens, it is the final countdown for the bar with German developers scheming to tear down the strip’s district. The paper-thin premise brings with it one-dimensional characters such as washed-up rockers Lonny (Scott Johnson) and club owner Dennis (Frog Johnson) as protagonists against the cartoonish German villains Herz (Joel Mikkelson) and his song Franz (Beau Wharton). Indeed, the realest thing about the show is the talent of many of its performers.

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Goodall and Bielby are well-cast, bringing a genuine likeability to their protagonist roles. Jacqui Power makes for a fierce Regina, tough and passionate in her bohemian activism and blistering in her vocal lead of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, while as the owner of the strip club at which Sherie accepts work, Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga is vocally thrilling. Indeed, her ‘Shadows of the Night’ mashup with Bielby’s ‘Harden My Heart’ is an Act One highlight.

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Scott Johnson is simply sensational as energiser-bunny narrator, Lonny. His energy never wanes in the demanding role which rarely sees him off stage and while his knowing parody delivery is well timed for maximum comic effect, his rough-edged vocals are also perfectly era-evocative. And Stevie Mac smoulders as the more-swagger-than-substance egomaniac Stacee Jazz, slinking through his solo, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ with Axl Rose/Bret Michaels electricity.

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But every rose has its thorn and occasional microphone lapses sometimes take the audience out of the show’s moments. Otherwise, the aesthetic is on-target, apart from a rogue 1990s Incubus band t-shirt. Indeed, the production’s use of the Tin Shed space shows that it is not the size of the theatre, but what you do with it that counts. The band appears on-stage amongst scaffolding that not only gives the setting some grunge, but effectively allows for multiple cast entry and exit points. The choreography is far from ground-breaking in its simulation of the era of excess’ moves, but it is full of energy, even within its limited stage area.

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Silly story aside, “Rock of Ages” is all about the music, packed full, as it is, of rock anthems and warm and fuzzy big-hair ballads alike. In each and every song of its 22 long setlist, the band (Musical Director Nick Ng) brings it, pumping out songs of the Whitesnake sort along with lighters-in-the-air Foreigner-type ballads, live and loud as they were meant to be experienced, even if initially it is at volume that sits atop rather than in support of the singing voices.

Comedy comes from rock ‘n’ roll antics, fourth wall breaks and audience interaction, mostly from narrator Lonny, but also from the deliberately over-the-top, campy characterisation of Beau Wharton as Franz from Hambug, especially in his crowd favourite number ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’. Be warned though, even though there is even a jazz hands number, its content is often of adults-only type innuendos.

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As is often the case with community theatre, the cast represents a mixed bag of performance talent, however, all have an infectious, spirited energy. A show that doesn’t take itself too seriously often brings with it an automatic sense of fun and this is certainly the case with this take of the mega rock musical; you will know the lyrics and want to sing along, such is its nostalgic musical appeal.

Big-scale storytelling

Big Fish – The Musical (Phoenix Ensemble)

Pavilion Theatre

April 27 – May 19

“Big Fish” may have failed to make a splash on Broadway, closing after three months after proving too expensive and not quite popular enough to sustain a long run, but still, the show represents a huge undertaking for any community theatre. And so Beenleigh’s Phoenix Ensemble deserves only the most superlative of praise for its Queensland premiere production of the show.

The scope of the story is evident from its first ensemble number, the anthemic ‘Be The Hero’ that introduces many of the fantastical characters that audience members may know from Tim Burton’s 2003 film version and the original novel by Daniel Wallace. The motley crew of characters populate travelling salesmen Edward Bloom’s life story … and what an epic, inspirational story it turns out to be.

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Edward Bloom (Nathaniel Currie) has experienced a full and fantastical life, inhabited by witches, mermaids and an apparently friendly giant called Karl (Luke O’Hagan). Our glimpse into it begins on the eve of his journalist son Will’s (sensitively played by Connor Clarke) marriage. Will unsuccessfully begs his father not to make a speech at the ceremony. Whereas once he was entertained by his rarely-there father’s incredible Alabama accounts, now the ever-changing scenarios of how Edward met Will’s mother Sandra (Kellie Ireland) are more maddening than amusing. As a now-adult, Will wants a rational rather than a fantastical account of his father’s life. As he says: “My father talks about a lot of things he never did, and I’m sure he did things he never talks about.” When Edward’s health declines, Will tries to reconcile the fact from fiction of his father’s baffling life and whether he is really a hero of Hicksville, just a big fish in small pond or even indeed a hero at all.

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Currie is wonderful as the roguish protagonist Edward, childlike in his playfulness and generous of spirit despite his self-aggrandising fantasies. Indeed, he is an engaging storytelling, and not just due to his charming southern accent. And his warm vocal tones add wonder, joy and whimsy to his many musical numbers. In perfect balance to his enthusiasm, Ireland is a patient and calm Sandra, adoring of her husband but also the rock in the middle of the father and son’s turbulent relationship. Her vocal prowess is outstanding, especially when showcased in the hauntingly beautiful ballad, ‘I Don’t Need a Roof’. Still, the on-stage magic mostly comes courtesy of scenes shared by the larger-than-life father and straight-laced son duo of Currie and Clarke, both dramatically and musically in numbers like ‘Showdown’ in which they have a Western-style duel and trial for Edward’s lying.

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As a folksy, family-friendly show, “Big Fish – The Musical” is full of heart, which is more-than captured in this joyous realisation thanks to the intimate staging of the Pavilion Theatre’s ‘tin shed’. Director Tammy Sarah Linde moves the story along at a good pace; transitions between flashback scenes and those of the present are seamless and there is light and shade throughout the production with lots of laughs but also an essential romanticism to its stories. And although the narrative ends in celebration of the legacy of Edward’s big life, Act Two is also quite moving, bringing more than a few tears to opening night audience members’ eyes.

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From a technical perspective, opening night was spoiled by some sound issues, however, lighting, is excellent in take of the audience from the depths of a witch’s swamp to the warm of Will’s childhood bedroom. A storybook backdrop adds interest as its pages are turned for changes and it works well as platform for added animation to enhance the production’s realisation of the mythical stories.

The soundtrack represents a montage of styles from the sentimental balladry of ‘Daffodils, in which Edward and Sandra declare their love, to the tap-dance razzle dazzle of ‘Red, White and True’, which is performed as part of a USO show during Edward’s alleged wartime antics. And, as is unfortunately, often not the case, the live band is not only accomplished but plays at a level appropriate to allow for vocalists to be clearly heard.

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Impressive performances pepper the 20+ cast of adults and children. Of particular note, Amos Calloway is a larger than life circus ringmaster, while Emma Whitefield is commanding in her stage presence as the ageless witch, not just because of her standout costume but beguiling vocal performance in Act One’s “I Know What You Want’.

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Storytelling doesn’t get much better than “Big Fish – The Musical”. Although it is far from a perfect musical, with a werewolf, flying fish and even a dancing elephant, the show is full of circus colour, movement and fun for young and old alike. But there is substance to it its sentimentally too. It’s themes about identity about choosing your own adventure are heart-warming, making it both an impressive and a memorable theatre experience.

Doing The Doll justice

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (BeenleighTheatre Group)

Crete Street Theatre

April 13 – 28

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Beenleigh Theatre Group’s “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” begins with an old-fashioned movie projection in throwback to times ago when rolling Jaffas down the aisles and canvas chairs were the norm. It is an appropriate introduction to a work that is very much of its time, yet also universal in its themes of loyalty, friendship and tradition. Thorough its projection, we learn the backstory to the beginning of the iconic and ground-breaking 1955 Australian play. For the previous 16 years, cane cutter mates Roo and Barney have, for the five-month layoff each year, soared like eagles down from the sun to celebrate frivolously with their Melbourne barmaid girlfriends. Since the men last returned up north, Barney’s longtime lover, Nancy, has married a city man so Olive has invited a co-worker, the widowed Pearl, to partake in the tradition in Nancy’s place.

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This segues into a prim and proper Pearl (Claire Wigley) peering from the window of the modest Carlton terrace house recreated on stage.  Dressed in a sombre black ensemble, she seems to conflict with the colourful chaos of the world into which she’s been invited. Olive, (Jan Nary), however, clings to a reality that cannot continue, symbolised by the kewpie dolls that have been gifted to her by beau Roo (Andrew Alley) each year in tradition. With an eagerness that properly belongs in youth, she sees the five month layoff each year as making the other seven months worthwhile, such is her gospelised view of their shared history and determination to recreate that past, even though Nancy has left the arrangement behind to marry someone other than Barney (Ian Johnson).

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After the men’s arrival settles to their normality there are more words than action as backstory is revealed in conversation;  Roo has been usurped as team leader to the younger upstart Johnnie Dowd (who, when he later visits, and talks with next door neighbour Bubba, appears to be anything but) and is broke so has to take a job in a paint factory. As Act Two sees summer days sweltering towards new year it become clear that for many collective reasons, this summer is different from others, as although Pearl has cooled from an initial ‘Mrs Cunningham’ introduction to Barney, tension between the cane cutters only continues to simmer towards an ultimate stoush in shattering of the Australian traditional bush myth and idea of mateship.

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Humour is well used to lighten moments which could become too heavy in melodrama or sentimentality, making this an accessible tribute that does justice to the first great Australian play. Especially Olive’s formidable, wise fool of a mother Emma (Jan Nary) is a standout in this regard, providing some wonderful comic-relief in her snide remarks. But, at its core, this is idealistic Olive’s story and as the play’s tragic hero on the cusp of middle age, Julia Lefik is energetic in evocation of Olive’s intricate emotions, making the play feel real in its highlight of the beauty in the mundane. In contrast to her romanticism, the uptight, conservative Pearl is realised with some welcome hilarity by Wigley. Alley and Johnson work well to create tension between the stoic Roo and the fun-loving larrikin lover Barney, while as Bubba Ryan and Johnnie Dowd, Katya Bryant and Jarryd Pianca add a younger flavour into the mix.

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The sheer amount of dialogue required of the principal cast is, of itself, impressive, especially for a community based performing arts ensemble. And in their of-the-time accents, they evoke both the era’s vernacular and languid delivery of the dropped gs and missing vowels of its idiomatic language, in accordance with the work’s celebrated stark realism in portrayal of authentic working-class characters.

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Faithful staging is of a tatty room of worn period furniture, doilies, and wireless upon a seen-better-days upright piano, with pops of kewpie doll clutter as kitchy reflection of Olive’s childish dreams. The aesthetic was unfortunately affected by some Act Two sound issues at Sunday night’s show, but once resolved, the authentic appeal soon returned.

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Under Timothy Wynn’s considered direction, this realisation of Ray Lawler’s story stands the test of time as a product of its time … a time when almost every dress was to be paired with sensible black shoes and matching handbag, beer came only in longneck bottles, corned beef sandwich hors d’oeuvres were put together with toothpicks and it was ok to call a 22 year-old-girl Bubba and for her not to mind. Of course its colloquialisms and morals make it dated, but still it resonates with a modern-day audience not so much because of its quintessential Australian-ness, but more because of what it has to say about ordinary, relatable characters, their collective resistance to the fading of youth and the all-too-human gap between how they really are and how they want to be seen.

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‘The Doll’ as it is affectionately also known, is one of the nation’s most produced plays, such is its staying power, and whether it be as revisit or as first time audience member, its more marathon than sprint experience (the show sees a long three acts separated by two 15 minute intermissions) should prove a worthwhile one.

Behind the curtain cues and clues

Curtains (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Crete Street Theatre

March 9 – 24

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As “Noises Off” has shown us, when it comes to theatre, what happens behind the stage curtain can be more interesting that what audiences see in front, especially when it involves murder. And thanks to a revolving stage at Beenleigh Theatre Group’s Crete Street Theatre, audiences are given ringside seats to all the machinations of the musical murder mystery “Curtains”, the last big musical created by John Kander​ and Fred Ebb of “Cabaret” and “Chicago” fame.

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The whodunit of cues and clues is not only a spoof of a backstage murder mystery, but doubles as a love letter to the Broadway stage. It is not set in New York, however, but rather 1959 Boston, where, at opening night of the Broadway-bound cowboy musical “Robbin’ Hood of The Old West”, the talentless leading lady, faded film star diva Jessica Cranshaw (Madi Jennings) is murdered during the curtain call. Suspects abound and when the show is critically panned, the producers need to decide whether to proceed with a new lead or shut down. Carmen (Fiona Buchanan) and Sidney Bernstein (Jarryd Pianca) decide to forge ahead with lyricist Georgia Hendricks (Genevieve) in the lead, which results in rekindle of the faded romance between songwriters Hendricks and Aaron Fox (William Boyd). Enter theatre-obsessed but lonely, married-to-his-job Lieutenant Frank Cioffi (Tony Campbell) to investigate the by-then series of murders, solve the show’s artistic problems and be enchanted by charming ingénue Niki (Lauren-Lee Innis-Youren) who, as understudy, is eager to make her Broadway debut.

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Although the show is a lightweight romp, as a homage to the golden age of Broadway musicals, with many nods to showbiz clichés and stereotypes, “Curtains” is an ambitious choice for any company. The show requires a large cast and there is always a lot happening on stage. Generally, it works and good use is made of the limited stage area to enable a live music soundtrack. The score has the usual musical mix of comedy, ballad and soliloquy songs and from the ‘Overture’ it is evident that the band, under conductor Julie Whiting is excellent, even if its sound initially overplays the voices on stage. But nothing can detract from the disconcerting sound moments of missed cures and microphone level issues that sometimes presented on opening night.

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Quality performances add much to the show’s appeal. Jim Price nails the sarcastic comedy of the bitchy director Christopher Belling with perfectly-timed pithy one-lines. And Buchanan brings a confident humour to the role of sassy producer Carmen Bernstein, with risqué double entendres aplenty regarding her philandering husband Sidney. As the replacement leading lady, Tree is vivacious and vocally very good in the big numbers. As her former husband, Boyd is also excellent in numbers like ‘Thinking of Him’, after claiming that his now ex-wife only wants to rekindle a romance with choreographer Bobby (Dylan Hodge), the actor playing Rob Hood and Georgia’s ex-boyfriend.

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“Curtains” includes a number of musical highlights, including fun song and dance numbers with plenty of jokey allusions to hits like “Oklahoma!”, “Annie Get Your Gun” and alike in, for example, the up-tempo square dance number ‘Kansasland’. There is also a wonderfully nostalgic nod to Fred and Ginger greatness in both choreography and charm in the romantic ‘A Tough Act to Follow,’ sung and danced by Campbell and Innis-Youren, in which Lieutenant Cioffi lives his dream of being onstage amongst atmosphere dream-sequence-like design.

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Opening night (which perhaps would have been better as a preview) hiccups aside, “Curtains” is clearly an entertaining night out. Although the whodunnit plot is improbably complicated, its theatrical send-up is so buoyant that it is difficult not be joyously bounced along its duration, especially as a fan of musical theatre from that golden age.

Allegorical excellence

Lord of the Flies (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Crete Street Theatre

January 19 – February 3

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Appropriately heralded by an air raid siren, audience members at The Beenleigh Theatre Group’s “Lord of the Flies” enter to an opening scene of schoolboys on a plane trip somewhere. Happily, they jaunt along to the sounds of ‘Run Rabbit Run’ in juxtaposition to the brutality of what is to come as in a stylised scene, they are crashed to an island.

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The group of boys from a mix of schools survive the crash, but find themselves deserted in the uninhabited location. Without adult supervision or guidance, they struggle in their abandon. The very-British and intelligent Piggy (Levi Rayner) advocates democratic rule and order through the symbolic use of a conch shell, but is disregarded by the others due to his physical deficiencies and muddle of words. Ralph (Jayden McGinlay), meanwhile, begins with an air of carefree adventure before becoming an initial leader. While his sensible priority is to maintain a signal fire (started by Piggy’s surrendered glasses), antagonist Jack (Nic Van Litsenborgh), a militant choir leader, is intent on hunting, using his chants to stir those in his tribe towards a savagery of self-indulgence in the absence of social mores and control to the contrary.

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Without societal or adult influence, the boys decide upon their own rules in initial attempts at remaining civilised but soon order begins to break down and barbarism starts to take over with the boys reverted to their base instincts under Jack’s autocratic leadership. And when anarchy reins, things move quickly; the boys’ uniforms are soon dishevelled as shirts come off, faces are war-painted and school ties become headbands and buffs “Survivor” style, in show of their decline into cruelty.

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William Golding’s 1954 classic but verbose story of civilisation in reverse clearly relies on some significant themes with its allegory about human impulse towards savagery. And its cast of adolescent boys more than rise to the occasion in their representation of Nobel Prize winning work. As the touted protagonist, reasonable and well-intentioned Ralph, McGinlay takes audiences on a tempered journey from boyish charm to deep despair in desperation to cling to his ideals.

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As his antithesis, Jack, Van Litsenborgh dominates with a gripping performance of menacing physicality and imposing vocals, especially in Act Two when he is appointed as the Chief. Although nobody from his choir boys faints under his initial command to march in line, he presents as a tantrum-throwing bully from the start in his antagonism of the whimpering Piggy, who appears more as a caricature than naïve intellectual.

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Other standouts include Elliot Hanscomb and Fraser Anderson as twins Samneric, especially in their attempts at rationalisation about the feared ‘beast’ in the jungle (really a dead parachutist hanging from its trees). And Liam Pert is an excellent Simon, understated in his essential symbolism of spirituality and human goodness, although his connection with nature and insight into mankind’s essential illness of latent evil is largely restrained.

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“Lord of the Flies” is a difficult play to stage, yet with minimalist set this imagining works well, allowing a lot of the intended symbolism to speak freely. Wood crates become multi-use props and multiple levels allow for action to take place in a variety of the island’s locations. Inventively, some of the most intense action takes place not on the stage, but on the carpeted area just in front of the audience, creating an intentionally uneasy intimacy during a viciously bloodthirsty scene in which a pig is ritualistically hunted and its head symbolically impaled upon a stick. Fighting scenes (choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr) work well, lighting accompanies stylised slow motion movements and a dynamic soundscape effectively signposts the boys’ decent to savagery.

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Under Bradley Chapman’s direction, Beenleigh Theatre Group have produced an excellent and entertaining production of a challenging text. It not only does justice to the main themes of Golding’s tale, but it intensely illustrates how even over six decades later, aspects of its themes remain relevant through its show of the extreme consequences of peer pressure unchecked. Is evil inherent in human nature or is it a learned trait? This is a question audience members will perhaps still be left pondering after the play, lingering in recall as is the case in experience of all the best types of theatre.

Photos – c/o Turn It Up Photography

Privileged pleasure

The Kingfisher (Javeenbah Theatre Company)

Javeenbah Theatre, Nerang

May 26 – June 6

It is countryside England where Lady (Evelyn) Townsend (Viviane Gian) arrives from her dim husband’s funeral to revisit love long-ago lost with successful novelist and unconfirmed bachelor Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins), who lives in his dotage by the river with his long-serving and dedicated, but also pompous and petulant butler Hawkins (Graham Scott). It is a privileged world of slippers, service bells and after-dinner drinks, but also one of unrealised dreams and concealed emotions, well-suited to the comedy of manners style that defines the Javeenbah Theatre Company’s “The Kingfisher”.

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William Douglas Home’s words are sometimes verbose but certainly witty, generating many a laugh in themselves, but especially when brought marvellously to life by the performances of each of the three-hander’s actors. Indeed, in the hands of this skilled cast, the script stands the story on its merit, meaning that the excessively detailed and stunning in-itself staging is not only unnecessary ,but at times distracting in its novelties, like water feature sounds of the river by the garden. And although costumes are on-point, conspicuously-aging makeup also sometimes make it difficult to focus solely on the story being shared. Still, where the humour is showing a little age, the cast has done a great job in exploiting every opportunity to general a laugh.

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Under Nathan Schulz’s direction, performances are excellent, especially in the physical scenes that start Act Two. Graham Scott makes it immediately clear that his character dislikes Evelyn’s sudden reappearance. Passive aggressive but also far from subtle, his perfectly-time reactions and expressive body language convey more than any words could. As the object of his abhorrence, Viviane Gian is perfect in her reluctance to let her guard down and initial oblivion to Hawkins’ taunts. However, it is Chris Hawkins who anchors the production with a natural and engaging performance as the tale’s protagonist, nostalgically wanting to recapture past days of kingfisher watching under the beech tree. And he is at his best in show of his range through eruption in an Act Two angry rant in response to Hawkins’ meddling into his marriage proposal to the new widow.

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“The Kingfisher” is a delightfully British story, yet its light-hearted examination of the need for person fulfilment is so universal as to engender audience contemplation long after the show’s finish. In the hands of Javeenbah Theatre Company, both its story and its message are pleasantly brought to life, making it easy to appreciate its characters’ wants to chase a second summer despite having had the first flush of youth long ago pass by. For an entertaining experience in a comfortable theatre, “The Kingfisher” at Javeenbah is best not missed.