A review by Douglas Kennedy
While writers and directors always get at least a mention in theatre reviews, the lion’s share of these posts generally go to the on-stage talent. After all, they are the folk we have been seeing during the performances as well as the ones we applaud at curtain call. But theatre, if nothing else, is a collaborative art form, which not only needs a cast but a crew and creatives who steer the show to its opening. The process often begins with a lone induvial leaning over a keyboard and staring at an empty page.
So, once a year, Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre Company acknowledges these scribes, as well as the guiding hand which brings their work to the stage, with a production called One Act Wonders. So let’s give the on-stage talents a back seat for once and look at four creative teams who have brought their works into the spotlight.
The production kicked-off with Monique Dumaine’s Mothers’ Group, directed by Kaela Gray, which focuses on five women who have little in common except for one experience.
They have all shared a common journey toward motherhood, but in individual monologues demonstrate that they are vastly different people. One of society’s – and particularly the media’s -common failing is to assume that groups such as indigenous people and refugees and even men and women are all on the same page when it comes to wants and needs.
So each of the women in the group tells her own story – all strikingly different – although the experience of one, called Ashley, is markedly different and ultimately has a powerful effect on the group.
Kaela Gray directs the collection in a straightforward simple, and uncluttered style, which heightens the final impact.
Hell hath no fury like a woman who arrives at its gate believing she deserves to be in heaven in Mikayla Maree Melo’s comic fantasy.
So begins a play simply called Hell.
Mikayla, who also directs her own work, certainly puts her on-stage talent through some demanding clashes as we learn that down there bureaucratic blunders are as common as they are here. The result is a lighthearted romp peppered with fun lines in another take on a popular genre seen on both the screen and stage down the years.
This is one of those themes that can either be profound and philosophical or carefree and whimsical. Mikayla has opted for the latter and an experienced cast makes sure it works extremely well for her.
Next we took a trip down memory lane as Laura Starre adapts and directs the classic patter sketch, Who’s On First, made famous by big screen funnymen Abbott and Costello.
Actually, the routine lampooning baseball players with names like First, Who and even Yesterday, has a pedigree which goes back further than the popular duo from the 1940s and ‘50s. The routine, which uses questions as names as in Who’s On First, is one which dates back to turn-of-the 20th century US burlesque, but it allows succeeding generations to make their own mark.
The secret is in the frustrations and misunderstandings it inspires, and Laura has done a good job of giving it a modern Aussie flavour.
That brings us to Gillian Crow’s Coach Surfing, directed by Vicki Lawrence, which features the writer giving us a delightful and well-crafted slice of ordinary life monologue.
It was noted at the beginning of this review that for once the actors would be given a backseat – the lack of acting names so far has been a deliberate choice – but every rule has an exception. Gillian’s role as aunty or Lynn was very much an extension of her writing, which took storytelling back to its basics.
Storytelling has been one of the foundation stones of human existence, dating back to our dawn of time, and there’s a reason for that. While it is great to have clever yarns full of tantalizing twists and unusual out-of-this-world turns, there’s something special about the simple narrative which speaks to us in universal truths. There’s something which connects us all when we see or hear an uncomplicated story unfold, which holds a mirror up to our own life experience. Lynn is a simple woman – and by that, I mean uncomplicated – who has a place in our world and that touches people.
The production concludes with an amusing high energy play, written and directed by Jack Lovett, which reinvents the old piece of sage advice to be careful what you wish for.
In the full-on spirit of youth John and Jen take us to The Fountain of Destiny – also the name of the play -where a statue offers a penny for your dreams. The stone comes to life and advices the young travellers that all it takes is a penny for your dreams. It all seems so easy as all the young people want to do is make this world a better place, but as this fable has reminded us time and time again wishful thoughts are not as easy as you might imagine.
Jack Lovett gives a fast and furious extremely modern take on the ancient warning with some truly funny stops along the way.
One Act Wonders salutes local writing talent and directing on the Coast and demonstrates there is a wealth of theatrical creativity here worth nurturing.
One Act Wonders. Four homegrown plays written and directed by Gold Coasters.
Mothers’ Group by Monique Dumaine and directed by Kaela Gray.
Hell. Written and directed by Mikayla Maree Melo.
Who’s On First. Adapted and directed by Laura Starre from a classic patter routine by Abbott and Costello.
Couch Surfing. Written by Gillian Crow and directed by Vicki Lawrence.
Fountain of Destiny. Written and directed by Jack Lovett.
Javeenbah Theatre Company, Nerang
Season 21 July – 5 August 2023
Bookings: email@example.com or click here for bookings
Duration: Two hours (plus interval)
Photo credits: Jeff Butterworth (Buttery Smooth).