Written by Jane Bodie, and presented by the WA Youth Theatre Company, this finely-balanced and gripping portrayal of a dystopian future boasts strong characters and an enigmatic storyline.
Director Renato Fabretti has taken on a challenging script with a large ensemble cast and the technical limitations of live theatre, and against all odds served up a production that intrigued without irritating and that maintained its mystery whilst retaining coherence.
The play initially follows the interactions of a group of young people, assembled for reasons not discussed, in what is apparently a closely monitored living situation. There are many topics which are avoided, leaving audience members to work at drawing their own conclusions – are these characters students, criminals, reality TV contestants, research subjects… or has Orwell’s Big Brother taken over everyday life? Events unfold with various clues given and then, in an abrupt change of scene, we are introduced to a second cast group, who take us ‘behind the scenes’ to those watching the young people. Even now there are no easy answers or resolutions for the audience, as marketing doublespeak works its obfuscating marvel of many words saying nothing.
Mine is not an easy ride for actors or audience. Casually mentioned topics included catastrophic human disaster events, declining global human fertility, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of personal privacy, commodification of life and death, and social and environmental collapse. Despite this, the human element and response was emphasised throughout, creating a sense of connection and recognition stronger than casual references to the continued growth of eBay as a commercial entity.
The initial cast of ten worked together strongly, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie in adversity, with individuals breaking down and lashing out at an unseen yet manipulative ‘They’. Lucy Clements strongly portrayed her character, Hilary, who tries to impose control on a situation in which they were all pawns. Robyn McMillan presented a Victoria who was all attitude, full of fiery anger and not ready to roll over and play nice. Monte Sallur’s Lincoln managed to undergo a substantial change, from strutting cock of the walk to quietly considerate partner to the ailing Mary. The most remarkable thing about this group of performers was the way each managed to establish their distinct character in limited stage time, without creating caricatures or resorting to stereotypes as points of difference, while still allowing Jane Bodie’s darkly thrilling script to progress and unfold.
Of the second set of six actors, the understated, laid-back humour conveyed by Zachary Drieberg’s Edwin came as a welcome counterpoint to the near hysterical end to the first section. While Emily Cribb had contributed her wonderful vocal talents to the first part – clear liquid notes looped on themselves as she provided live musical accompaniment – once she reached the stage she was everywhere as a middle manager in damage control mode. Lucy Westbrook and Scott Corbett’s resonant portrayal of an infertile couple featured depth and maturity, picking up where the words of the script left off to convey their characters’ deep sorrow, disappointment and embarrassment as well as their continued determination to have a family.
Technically, the stage was dominated by a mirrored backdrop, causing the audience to literally reflect on events as they developed. The musical accompaniment was effective at maintaining the close atmosphere between scenes and all lighting changes went smoothly – considering some of the plot twists that arise from the use of lighting, this was particularly impressive.
Mine was an intense production to experience, and rewarded close attention. WAYTCo may be a youth theatre company, but the standard of performance was high across the board throughout the entire play.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5"
‘Mine’ is a brand new play by the much-admired playwright, Jane Bodie. Jane is also current head of the postgraduate, playwriting course at NIDA. She is a past winner of the Victorian Premier’s Award for ‘Best Play’.
The Western Australian Youth Theatre Company, which was formed in 1990, has been the gateway for thousands of young Western Australians to learn what life in the theatre is all about.
This wonderful play is being presented at the Subiaco Arts Centre Studio, 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco, with the hour and three-quarter shows on Wednesday to Saturday nights at 7.30 pm, until 16th June.
The set is a simple grey stage, with a backdrop of a massive floor to ceiling mirror, three metres high by 7 metres long. There are ten cream chairs and a large, empty wooden table. Timpanis thunder and heavy rock music fills the air (composer and sound designer Alex Brittan), and the delicate strains of Emily Cribb’s singing adds to the atmosphere.
The time is about ten years hence. Out of the evening mist comes a young girl dragging her suitcase, Hilary (Lucy Clements) is the first to arrive at this bland establishment. As the self-assured young woman is looking around, another smiling timid girl, Elizabeth (Sofie O’Mara) arrives quickly followed by an even quieter and shyer girl, the wan Mary (Caitlin Thompson). Very little is said between the group until the slightly punkish Anne (Mary Soudi) arrives and announces that if things do not go right she will be off in an instant.
Where is this strange, characterless building?
The door flies open and in marches a foul-mouthed, Glaswegian ‘hairy’, Victoria. The hilarious wee nyaff (Robyn McMillan) says the place reminds her of ‘a stinkin’ f*in airport’. Following her through the door is heartthrob - in his own mind - Lincoln (Monte Sallur) who immediately hits a raw nerve with Victoria.
Gradually the room fills up and the group gather around the table. It seems that they have answered an advert to be in this ‘Big Brother-like house’. Just as in Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians’ they are not too sure why they are there, or who is responsible for the situation. It seems that many, like Julius (Tim Wingfield) are highly intelligent computer experts; then again, at the other end of the scale are the wee nyaff, and a South African, William (Danen Engelenburg) who has many hang-ups. There is also the quiet, caring George (Patrick Harvey) and the highly-strung, withdrawn Charles (Murphy Voight) who really does not want to be there!
We join a business meeting of the astute accountant, Edwin (Zachary Drieberg) and the person in charge, Sondra (Emily Cribb), who is typical of so very many, self-opinionated civil servants that are promoted above their knowledge because they can ‘talk the jargon’.
Two new potential investors (Lucy Westbrook and Scott Corbett) arrive to talk to Sondra. Meanwhile, two more housemates (Crystal Della Posta, Campbell Greenock) arrive at ‘the house’.
Where is this establishment? Moreover, what is taking place?
Director, Renato Fabretti was a Curtin and WAAPA acting graduate before going to NIDA to specialise in directing. Here, Curtin graduate Verity Softly assists him. The direction of these 16 young actors is first class, and they have taken on board the obviously high demands that have been made. This wonderful story, full of intrigue has been developed beautifully a great depth given to the rich and fascinating characters.
Considering the age group, that ranges from 15 to 21 year olds, the chemistry is excellent and the rapport solid. Without exception, the youngsters have totally captured the very different personalities. There is a great deal of humour along with several points of tension and conflict, all of which flow naturally.
The lighting (Glyn McNamara) was well considered and added greatly to the aura - operation was by Grace Benn, who also stage-managed. Production manager was Paige Devine. Make-up artist (Kate Anderson) developed the trendy eyebrow shape and colour for ‘the era’.
I can thoroughly recommend this production to all young potential actors, and to many community actors who are searching for tips and ways to enhance their acting skills. This show is only on for a short while, so try to catch it.
Clever story writing, brilliant dialogue and first class acting."