Left – Breeahn Jones and Claire Taylor. Cover – (front) Robert Woods, Cicely Binford, Liza-Mari Schwindt, Mitchell Robinson, Maria Velletri, Geoff Kenny and Cassie Skinner, (back) Breeahn Jones and Claire Taylor
Come and see The Freaks! The Bearded Lady, Reptile Boy, The Fortune Teller, The Cannibal and the Harem Girls band together to create the Side Show! The stars, however are Daisy and Violet Hilton, Siamese twins fused at the hips and buttock. Based on a true story, the narrative centres around the girls’ harrowing journey from the freak show to Vaudeville, and eventually the big screen.
While the lyrics aren’t particularly clever and the songs not particularly memorable, the themes are universal. The Hilton sisters experience love, betrayal and despite being conjoined twins, they long for acceptance, success and normality. Daisy and Violet, (played by Breeahn Jones and Claire Taylor respectively) while moving physically in the same direction, had dreams that ran at tangents. Violet did not share Daisy’s thirst for celebrity and success on the stage, instead having one desire; to be normal, not pointed and sniggered at.
The casting was very clever as the girls were of similar height, build and complexion. Jones and Taylor were not physically taped or buckled together to create the effect of being conjoined; they simply ensured their movements were well rehearsed and disciplined to have the constant connection at the hip.
This amateur production attracted a high calibre of performers from the Perth community theatre circuit and it’s just as well. The many solo numbers and duets were all handled with skill and conviction of character. It wasn’t just the leads who shone though, the chorus members added a depth to the big musical numbers that ranged from haunting to spectacular.
The choreography by Tammie Rafferty was simple for the most part, and complimentary to the action. There were however, one or two dynamic ensemble numbers and a stunning display of partner lifts and sensual moves during a melancholy duet by the twins in the second act.
Director Tyler Jones utilised many different levels of staging to get the most out of the open plan hall. The large, user friendly set was mostly operated by the cast members to quickly transform the space and allude to a new location.
Technically it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The Floreat venue, Hackett Hall, doesn’t have the acoustics of a theatre, and although the singers were wearing radio microphones, their voices were at times muffled or lost altogether behind the band. The large orchestra was situated at the back of the stage in what I expect was an effort to dampen the sound. Matt Austin, an accomplished MD, is sure to have spent many painstaking hours reorchestrating the score in an effort to minimise the number of instruments required. Even so, there were a few moments when the singers and space were overwhelmed.
Terry McAuley has an exceedingly good reputation for creating stunning wardrobes and show stopping outfits. He put his skills and creativity once more to great use here, adorning the twins and other assorted “freaks” with a myriad of frocks and costumes.
As far as amateur theatre goes, this is a top rate production reflecting many hours of dedicated, unpaid work from people donating their talent and time to bring entertainment to the masses. I’d highly recommend that you go along, eat your fill of popcorn from the machine in the foyer and support their Side Show.
Director Tyler Jones
Venue: Hackett Hall, Draper Street (off Underwood Avenue), Floreat
Dates/Times: 8pm, September 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 and 7pm, September 2011
Tickets: $25, $20 concession