Boundary Street | Black Swan State Theatre Company


Boundary Street | Black Swan State Theatre CompanyLeft – James Morrison with dancer/actors Clare Moss, Rebecca Davis, Kenny Ransom. Photo – Robert Frith / Acorn Photo Agency

I was reminded at the Opening Night of Boundary Street by Black Swan State Theatre Company that all elements of a production need to be good for a show to be passable. There were some brilliant components to Boundary Street, namely the music, but unfortunately the script, written by Reg Cribb, let the production down. A mere fifteen minutes in and I wanted to scream at the cast to stop playing such stereotypical characters, as well as tell the cast and crew to get a move on with their (slow) scene changes.

The year is 1942 in Brisbane. Australia’s White Australia Policy prevents the black American soldiers from leaving their boats until a truce is agreed between the US and Australia. Once on dry land, three African-Americans (Solly, Lester and Joe) discover Dr Carvers Jazz club, set up especially for the black servicemen. Brisbane women work at the club as hostesses, and it is here the men meet and fall in love with Polly and Maddie, two married white women, and Rosie, an indigenous woman.

Racial tension boils over whilst the service men are in Brisbane, leading to the city being divided by its main bridge, with the blacks having to stay on the South side near Boundary Street. It is on the bridge that the final, tragic incident takes place.

At the heart of Boundary Street is the music. Director Kate Cherry scored a coup when Composer and Musical Director James Morrison signed on with his band, and the music is without a doubt the highlight of the night. James is joined by his son Harry on Bass, Brother John on Drums, Roger Garrood on Saxophone, and Raymond Walker on guitar. Emma Pask (as Louise) and Gina Williams (Rosie) are the talented singers. The band is sharp, slick, powerful and full of the energy that some of the cast seemed to lack.

Kenneth Ransom (Lester), Terry Yeboah (Joe), and Christopher Kirby (Solly), had unmistakable camaraderie between them, and ably pulled off the American accents. What they lacked was the connection with the women they fell in love with. Rebecca Davis as Maddie and Clare Moss as Polly were more openly connected, but the characterisations seemed underdeveloped.

Underdeveloped was a big issue with this performance. The majority of characters came across as one dimensional, lacking depth and interest. I didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters, and I felt the actors were struggling to connect, and that made it harder to care what happened to them. Of all, Williams as Rosie was the most enjoyable, although her transformation part way through was completely unbelievable.

Whether it was opening night nerves or a lack of rehearsal, the execution of the multiple dance sequences was sloppy and tired. This was highlighted during the curtain call when Choreographers Mary Beth Cavanaugh and Shane McCarthy danced and demonstrated to the audience exactly what they had missed. The cast need sharp, clean lines to produce excellent swing dancing, and I hope this will improve throughout the run.

This was my first experience in the new Heath Ledger Theatre, and I have to comment. I love the sightlines, but oh my. Whoever thought light brown, light brown and more light brown would be a good colour scheme should take a long hard look at themselves. I felt like I had walked into a time warp that had taken me back to the 1980’s. Wood paneling looks great, but only when it doesn’t meld into the carpet colour.

Back to the production of Boundary Street. I think in a few weeks this show will have improved, as the cast settle into their roles and moves. It’s a shame about the script and that such stereotypical characters are around and portrayed, but the brilliant music is worth the trip alone.


Black Swan State Theatre Company
Boundary Street
by Reg Cribb

Directed by Kate Cherry
Original Music by James Morrison

Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Dates: Sat 5 - Sun 20 March, 2011

Tickets: Standard $64.50, Friends and Conc $49.50, Students $24.95
Info: perthfestival.com.au

SOLD OUT

Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival with Brisbane Festival



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