Monday, November 14, 2011

play review

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Juice by Stephen Davis was written in 17 after a series of workshops with South-East Queensland schools including Ipswich Grammar, Nudgee College, Somerville House and several large State Schools, in which students and teaching artists’ collaborated the ideas, issues and desires relevant to students in the 14-15 age bracket. The purpose of the play is to educate young people about the hidden dangers of alcohol.

Juice is a play about the trials and tribulations that a group of school-mates go through after the drunken suicide of one of their best friends, at a small party to celebrate the end of grade ten.

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The themes of the play highlight major physical, mental and social issues evident in today’s teenage population. There are several subtle messages hidden within the text of this play, the main being that of Alcohol and its effects when you are trying it for the first time, like many of the characters were on that fateful night. Other issues raised in the plot are deceit and freedom or lack of it especially in Rodney’s case, deceiving his parents at the outset for some freedom and then kept rambling on about flying which is usually categorised with the feeling of freedom i.e. the saying “Free as a Bird”.

The plot of the story

A group of friends are celebrating the end of grade ten with a party. Two of the friends Rodney Borax (the central character) and Melissa-Anne are not allowed to go, so they decide to sneak out when Rodney’s parents go to sleep. They call one of their friends with a car to pick them up, so they can join in celebrating the end of year 10.

At the party they discuss the future and have a few drinks but Rodney has too many and gets drunk. He rambles on and on about flying and then, in a drunken stupor decides to climb the water tower in the paddock adjacent to where they are having the party. When Rodney reaches the top of the water tower he goes on more about flying while his friends encourage him to come down so he doesn’t hurt himself. That’s when he jumps in a vain attempt to fly free from his over protective parents.

The story takes place in either the late 10’s or early 000, but because there is no mention of historical events it is difficult to discern when the story is set, which gives the work a timeless quality and makes it relevant to any generation of teenagers. The main parts of the story are set in a semi rural suburb of Brisbane, this is identified because of the mention of the Ekka (which is the only morsel of information concerning when and where it was set).

The fact that a good portion of the play took place in a paddock works against the limited performance space in the Nudgee theatre as the stage is barely 4m x 10m, so it therefore cannot accommodate a water tower, trashed car body and a big video screen.

The costumes for the actors would have been fairly easy to organise as the actors could just wear some of their normal casual clothes and fill the costume requirements perfectly. I don’t think that make up would be necessary for the actors playing the role of a boy but in our case where male actors are playing a female role a bit of makeup wouldn’t go astray to accentuate their feminine features.

The venue and performance space partially affected the performance as there was limited space and the audience needed to use their imagination to see what the cast was acting out. Prime examples of this were when the actors where supposed to be in a paddock.

The set was quite boring and my attention started to wander as the play went on, if the set had more structure it would create more interest in what was happening, as the audience would have a bit more eye candy, other than a few colourful clothes against a jet black backdrop. The addition of a painted backdrop and a few logs for the actors to sit on would have achieved the outdoor feel more effectively than a few chairs positioned around a torch wrapped in red cellophane.

Lighting was used to good effect, with spotlights used to isolate actors on a separate stage space this effect was used well to represent an interview; overall lighting was excellent despite the limited amount of equipment at their disposal. Sound and other media could have been used to give the play a bit more life and set the mood of the scenes. The use of a big screen to represent a TV interview would have added another dimension to the production.

The actors were quite convincing especially the he-she’s considering that most of them maintained a feminine voice throughout all of their dialogue, but on that note a pair of skin coloured stockings or a once over with a razor wouldn’t have gone unappreciated.

Because the stage isn’t much higher than the floor it was quite hard to see any action going on down the front of the stage especially for those at the back of the audience, the actors also needed to slow down their speech and project their voices a more as it was quite hard to hear further back.

There was one performance that really stood out above the rest, the character of Craig who was played by Callum Wilson, he articulated clearly and projected his voice really well.

The mood of the play was that of a solemn recollection of events, that lead up to the death of Rodney. The mood is conveyed by the character’s dialogue, the tone of their voices and the use of lighting.

Overall the play was enjoyable but hard to follow, as the scenes presented were only excerpts from a larger play. The changing of actors for several key characters made the flow even harder to follow. Even though the play was cut down from what would be a production of well over an hour to just fifteen minutes, it still delivered a strong message.

The main source of comical enjoyment came from the “he-she’s” wearing pink wigs trying to maintain their dulcet tones and other “he-she’s” constantly adjusting themselves.

Fine tuning of several minor production and technical aspects such as stage height and seating arrangement would have been of benefit to the audience.

On the whole the performances were very good considering the amount of stage time (or lack there of) that the performers had. I would give this production a ½ out of five.

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1 comment:

  1. We are required to make a play on the script and talk about the feelings of elizabeth (the mother) when Rodney dies. How was elizabeth to rodney?