The Big Picture | Perth Theatre Company & AgelinkBleak was the first word that came to mind at the conclusion of The Big Picture. This is a bleak, depressing, yet all too real portrayal of a small town and an insular group of single young mothers. In partnership with Agelink Theatre Inc, Perth Theatre Company is presenting Jennifer Comptons play at the Subiaco Arts Centre Studio.

The play is about three young women Fran, Joy and Mandy, living in a remote town (one shop and a phone box), surviving on welfare and with the support of one another. Enter Joy’s brother Guy, who gets stuck in town after totalling his (borrowed) motorcycle. Guy touches the women’s lives throughout the play bringing violence and heartache to all three.

There are numerous lighter moments, primarily at the expense of one or more of the women when they make a particularly “dumb blonde” comment. Director Jenny McNae has done well to coax both the funny and the sad sides out of the play without making the characters overly exaggerated or pathetic.

For all that the subject matter is bleak; the production and creative elements are far from it. The three women (Rebecca Davis, Renee Newman-Storen, and Kate Rice) are full of life and laughter and drama, the actors effectively portraying lowly educated downtrodden yet paradoxically upbeat women. A stark contrast I expect, to what the actors really are.

As the violent and troubled brother Guy, Stuart Halusz injected the anger and desperation needed to ensure the audience jumped in their seats numerous time. In particular, the scene directly before interval was confronting to watch and left the audience in a somewhat stunned silence as the house lights came up.

I was unsure of the relevance or meaning of the colouring-in books used by Joy and Guy. If it was meant to illustrate their level of intelligence it seemed a slightly crass, over exaggerated way of doing so. As such, I was unable to see the point as Joy calmed Guy down simply by waving it in his face. However the play was no less powerful due to that lack of connection.

Brad Reid’s set, the suitably shabby fibro kitchen belonging to Joy, was perfect for both the action and for the studio space. The sink and fridge worked, and even the magnets on the fridge changed between scenes. This is the most realistic set I’ve seen from Reid, and his attention to detail, right down to the unwashed linoleum and fat splatter above the stove, is impressive.

The biggest technical annoyance was that the scene changes were too long, leading to a loss of momentum. In saying that, Hugh Jennings minor key melodic tunes were enjoyable fillers and suited the production. Aaron Stirk and Andy Fraser rounded out the Creatives as Lighting Designer and Fight Choreographer respectively.

This is a confronting piece for its real portrayal of lives we often only see in the news or as statistics. The Big Picture is bleak, depressing and gut-wrenching, yet brilliantly performed and well worth seeing.

Perth Theatre Company presents Agelink Theatre Inc’s
by Jennifer Compton

Directed by Jenny McNae

Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre Studio, Hamersley Road, Subiaco
Season: Saturday 21 March - Saturday 4 April, 8.30pm
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, 7.30pm
Tickets: Standard $35 / Concession & Groups (6+) $27.50
Bookings: BOCS

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