The Phoenix Ensemble’s inaugural season of one-act plays, Showcase 1 and Showcase 2, is chockful of emerging talent, lots of laughs and plenty to think about. It’s on at the cosy and comfortable Pavilion Theatre in the Beenleigh showgrounds.
In Showcase 1, playing for the final time, a new writer and a cast of experienced actors and novices get the chance to present their stuff. And they are all terrific.
The first short play, “Double Bourbon, a Backseat and a Book”, by new playwright Paula Weston is superb. With an autobiographical theme, it tells the story of a young woman’s search for spirituality against the backdrop of her excessive drinking and aggressive behavior. But it’s not about religion per se and it’s not maudlin it’s hilarious.
Penny, perfectly played by Lisa Killeen, is a young journalist working on a suburban newspaper. Here she is the only reporter without a university degree who struggles to meet her own vision of competence even though she’s good at the job. Lisa Killeen shows the audience how the jeans-and-tee-shirt-wearing knockabout Penny is wracked by guilt about her search for meaning through Christianity. The double-bourbon swilling tough guy image is her defence against her quite false perception that an adherence to Christian faith is “weak”.
There is plenty of comedy wrapped in pathos that has the audience completely in the actors’ grip. Claire Pearson as Penny’s somewhat uppity colleague, Prue, masterfully presents the character as one of those overzealous but genuine women’s righters we have all worked with in the past 40 years she’s deliciously funny and convincing.
Directed by accomplished vocalist, actor and director Heather Scott, the play moves swiftly to its inevitable and satisfying conclusion while the supporting cast amasses stage presence and experience that is already polished. Astute use of the stage area to depict three settings adds to the audience’s unavoidable immersion in the play. The lighting is great and the sound is perfect.
The second play in this series is Westley Pederson’s “Take Five”. This quirky little script is about what can go wrong when putting on a play. But it’s more than that. Again the gags are terrific and the intellectual aerobics the audience needs to toggle between the two quite different scenarios is stimulating and all-pervasive. On the one hand the audience is watching a nice little play with a cute but predictable story line and on the other hand, because of a series of mishaps, the “audience” and even the stage hands are on stage.
Confused? Don’t be. When you see this play you will be immediately caught up in the intertwining stories and you will get enormous satisfaction out of the very clever dialogue. I can’t give any more of the plot away.
The most outstanding feature of this performance is that four of the six actors are making their debuts in “Take Five”. Director Jo Castle has done a splendid job in getting these novices to a very acceptable standard. Young Jason McKell as stage hand (on stage) is one example of the talent in this cast. His line delivery is right on target and his facial expressions (so important in comedy) give the already side-slapping humor that added zing. Another debutant, Nadine Lewis, as Gladys, is a natural on stage. According to director Jo Castle, Nadine joined the company recently after she drove past the theatre for three years and thought about having a go at amateur theatre. Nadine, you should have been on stage a long time ago! Tamara Savic and Peter Jones as expectant parents Alex and Sharon are the other first-timers. They combine beautifully to carry the script’s humor and support the veterans Rob McFarlane and Alex Milosevic whose experience is obvious.
Both these productions are well worth a quick trip to Beenleigh for a wonderful night of comedy.