“Fresh” is the name of the Brisbane Arts Theatre’s new series of plays (previously Early Week): a program aimed at promoting young and new talent in the theatre community. Nick Enright’s Blackrock kicks off Fresh and also marks the directorial debut of Natalie Bochenski. The new program achieves its goal in providing a supportive platform for budding theatre enthusiasts but the end result is a rather mixed affair.
The plot centres on teenager Jared Kirby and events on the night of Toby Ackland’s 18th birthday party at Blackrock beach. When the body of a girl is found raped and bashed on the beach after the party, the whole town goes into shock and panic, as they try to discover those responsible and find out exactly what happened on the night of the party.
The cast as a whole gel fairly well, although the obvious disparity between the implied (teen) ages of a few characters and the actors playing their roles makes the suspension of disbelief a little hard. Some of the dialogue in the first half tends to run together, and the scenes move a little too fast to be easily understood, especially the shorter ones. The numerous blackouts between scenes only add to the confusion, and despite the strangely sporadic use of music as a distraction, the play loses some of its impact. The drama of the plot carries the action along during the second half, and the pace of the dialogue is generally smoother and more comprehensible, although some of the scenes fizzle out towards the end.
Scott Drummond is reasonably well equipped, if perhaps a little too old in the lead role of teenager Jared and Michael Coughlan is satisfactorily loutish in his debut theatre performance as Jared’s best friend Ricko. Tammy Reid is excellent as Jared’s exhausted and worried mother Diane, demonstrating a convincing sincerity and sense of insight into the role. Also impressive is Anthony Coyne in his three roles, injecting the necessary doses of humour into the play in the roles of Stewart Ackland, Len Kirby and Roy. The standout in the cast is Miranda Deakin as Jared’s young cousin Cherie. Her believability in the role and seeming ease in moving between the comic and dramatic points of the storyline guarantee her an instantly empathetic connection with the audience.
The Fresh Theatre series is aimed at the under-35 age bracket, and while a good percentage of the audience seemed to be in the 40+ category, Blackrock also had its fair share of young theatregoers, which suggests that there is indeed a market for this brand of theatre. Fresh Theatre’s version of Blackrock may not be the most polished of pieces but it is by no means unwatchable either. Rather it should perhaps be seen as the starting point and learning grounds of a new generation of theatre devotees, worthy of public support and therefore worth the admission fee.