A young woman holding a razor to a young man's neck.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Fresh, authentic theatre from Second Chance

Review: Second Chance Theatre, Playthings ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 8 November ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The Blue Room Theatre has mounted a drive to raise $100,000 to convert one of its downstairs rooms into a tiny third theatre space. If you want to see what the Blue Room’s thirty years of fostering young talented writers, performers and creative can deliver, you can do no better than see Scott McArdle’s superb Playthings, presented by local outfit Second Chance Theatre.

It’s a rare joy to see such a complete, captivating play by an emerging writer/director. McArdle has been at it for a little while now, and had some success, notably with his Laika: a Radio Play in late 2017, but his is still a career taking first steps, and Playthings is a quantum leap for him.

Daniel Buckle’s Arnold has a gawky tenacity that is authentically lovable. Photo: David Cox Media.

The story of a pair of troubled high school kids, Lucy (Courtney Henri) and Arnold (Daniel Buckle), touches on many of the most difficult challenges facing young people – family breakdown, self-harm and depression, bullying, withdrawal – without being submerged by them.

That’s a singular achievement in itself, given the issues overload of much contemporary alternative theatre. It’s more impressive because of McArdle’s adept control of narrative and character, his gift for dialogue and ability to work humour and sharp-edged emotion into his text (I shamelessly laughed and cried).

He’s created four memorable characters; the grown-ups in the room are the kids’ teacher, Miss Richards (Siobhan Dow-Hall) and Lucy’s step-dad Rhys (St John Cowcher) – and they have well-developed issues of their own.

What emerges is a beautifully nuanced and completely believable story of a kind of mutually protective love, a bulwark against a threatening world.

Not that it’s all sweetness and light. Lucy, one of the most original and compelling characters to come from Perth theatre in yonks, is sharp – razor sharp– edged and often genuinely scary. She carries a blade, and leaves you in no doubt that she is quite prepared to use it.

Henri, a 2018 graduate of WAAPA’s performance-making course, brings her to life with a significant, utterly convincing performance of tender ferocity. You’ll be hearing more of her.

The whole cast is faultless; Buckle’s Arnold has a gawky tenacity that is authentically lovable, and Dow-Hall’s teacher carries a fearsome secret, the uncovering of which is one of the play’s most shredding moments.

Cowcher, an experienced, inventive actor of marvellous range and ability, is perfect as Lucy’s conflicted step-dad, struggling to influence situations beyond his power to control.

In fact, nearly everything about Playthings is perfect, from Sara Chirichilli’s subtly-segmented set that creates much more work space than the Blue Room’s little stage actually has, to Rebecca Riggs-Bennett’s fine sound design, George Ashforth’s video design and McArdle’s own lighting plot.

But what impressed me most, and gave me most pleasure, was to see the green shoots of Perth theatre thriving once again in another generation of artists nurtured by the Blue Room.

If it has KPIs, then Playthings ticks them all off – fresh, of serious intent, young people telling authentic stories about young people – in the best tradition of theatre.

When you see it – and I hope you will – why not make a contribution to help the Blue Room expand the vital work it does for the life of this town?

You’ll be doing yourself a favour.

Playthings runs until November 23.

Pictured top: Courtney Henri as Lucy and Daniel Buckle as Arnold. Photo: David Cox Media.

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Man sitting and staring at knife in his hand
Calendar, November 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Playthings

5 – 23 November @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Second Chance Theatre ·

Like watching RAGE at 3AM.

Lucy and Arnold are 13. He’s a bit sensitive and she loves The Simpsons. This week, he has an English assignment due, and she’s planning on killing her stepdad.

From the award-winning Second Chance Theatre (Laika: A Staged Radio Play), Playthings is an unflinching portrayal of violence, trauma, and abuse in Australian suburbia.

More info:

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The winners of the 2017 PAWA Awards
Features, News, Performing arts, Theatre

And the winners are…

Seesaw warmly congratulates the winners of the 2017 Performing Arts WA Awards!

Georgina Cramond – Interrupting A Crisis, The Blue Room Theatre & Ribs

Coma Land – Will O’Mahony

St John Cowcher – My Robot, Barking Gecko Theatre Company

Alison van Reeken – Let The Right One In, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Brendan Ewing – The Eisteddfod, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Adriane Daff – The Irresistible, Side Pony Productions & The Last Great Hunt

Jonathon Oxlade – Set & Costume – The Irresistible, Side Pony Productions & The Last Great Hunt

Rachael Dease – Composition & Sound Design – Let The Right One In, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Jeffrey Jay Fowler – The Eisteddfod, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Laika: A Staged Radio Play – The Blue Room Theatre & Second Chance Theatre

The Eisteddfod – Black Swan State Theatre Company

Want to know more about the PAWA Awards? Read Seesaw’s interview with PAWA secretary and Awards committee member Nick Maclaine here.

Pictured top: The 2017 PAWA Awards winners. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

For kids only!

Fringe World review: Josephine by Second Chance Theatre ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 7 February ·
Review by Cass Runyon & Varnya Bromilow ·

Cass Runyon, aged 8.

The play was very, very good which is why I rated it ten out of ten.

It’s about a girl who was lost in the roof of her apartment. She was sad because her aunty had died. The girl went on many adventures to find a lost friend. There were pirates, ghosts and some spookiness. I liked the pilot bit best. In the end everything turned out fine, but there were some scary bits in the middle.  I clapped my hands off at the end.

Scary rating: 8/10

Varnya Bromilow, aged 44.

How can I argue with the impassioned praise above?  Josephine is a piece of theatre aimed squarely at children and unlike much of contemporary children’s theatre, it does not aim to please the adults in the audience.  There are no sly winks to grown-ups, no under-the-table jokes that pass innocently over the heads of juniors.  The work is an earnestly felt, jumbled, flight of fancy.

Josephine’s beloved aunt has died.  Left alone in the apartment, cut off from the world, the young girl escapes into the cozy confines of the air vents in the roof.  From this vantage point, she can listen into a myriad neighbourly conversations…surrounding herself with the comfort of chatter, while recovering from her loss.  In doing this, Josephine discovers William, a young violinist who becomes her friend.  Following an argument William disappears and Josephine is faced with a choice – does she come down from her vented hidey-hole to search for her new friend, or does she stay ensconced in her very small world?

Unfortunately for an adult viewer, this is where the plot becomes a little less compelling as our heroine embarks upon a series of unrelated and random adventures in her quest to find her friend.  We encounter a tyrannical pirate queen; a haunted circus-world (replete with forlorn ghost); and lastly a flight with Amelia Earhart.  The loose linking theme of these escapades is Josephine’s need to conquer her fears.  But the narrative thread is a slender one – whimsical enough to hold the attention of children but not so for anyone over ten.

Josephine is produced by Second Chance Theatre and directed and written by the prolific Scott McArdle, a regular at the Blue Room.  The performers (Rhianna Hall, Tristan McInnes, Jo Morris and Nick Maclaine) are confident and engaging.  Morris, who you may know from her work with Black Swan Theatre, has a remarkable stage presence and a perfect ear for accents.  Perhaps because this is McArdle’s first foray into children’s theatre, he makes the unusual directorial decision to have the actors execute their roles in a manner best described as Playschoolesque.  Wide eyed, slow-talking, overly expressive…it feels like the show is pitched at the 3-7 year-old set, rather than the advertised 9-18.  It’s very difficult to imagine a teenager enjoying what is essentially a play for small children.

It’s churlish to demand that a play for children be as captivating for adults.  We’ve been a little spoilt in recent years by the feast of spectacles that satisfy such disparate age groups.  For an adult, Josephine is a simply told, meandering affair but as evidenced by the eager applause from junior hands the night I went, it hits the spot squarely for young dreamers.

Josephine runs until February 17th.

Photo: Sean Smith

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Calendar, Children, February 18, Performing arts, Theatre

Fringe World: Josephine!

6 -17 February @ Blue Room Theatre •
Presented by Second Chance Theatre •

From the award winning team at Second Chance Theatre, Josephine! is a new work for the young at heart, kicking off as a part of The Blue Room Theatre’s 2018 Summer Nights program. Written and directed by Scott McArdle, Josephine! is a story of pirates, ghosts, haiku and the strength of children.

Website: http://blueroom.org.au

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