Away | University Theatre GuildPhoto – Richard Parkhill

It is always a privilege to see a student production sponsored by an established theatre company such as the Guild. Such a production not only gives experience to aspiring thespians, but also shows us what (and who) might be waiting in the wings as the future of theatre in a community.

This production of Australian playwright Michael Gow’s Away, well known and oft studied by high school students, is a fine example of such a student production – but perhaps with too many hallmarks of a high school production. Director Aldo Longobardi is clearly an experienced proponent of this latter genre, and makes his directorial debut showing his clear abilities with young people. Yet while the potential is very much there, but it could shine more brightly than it does in this instance.

The Little Theatre is an intimate setting, but not so intimate that sotto voce expressions can be heard. From the Midsummer Nights Dream final speech that opened the show, the words of too many of these aspiring actors were lost in unclarity of diction, rapidity of speech and poor projection. A whisper in the audience from behind me (in the 4th row back) said it all: “I want to stand up and yell, ‘speak up!’” Even in an intimate setting such as this, we do not have the intimacy of television or film close-ups to catch all the nuances that may well have been there, because there are some fine actors in this troupe.

As three families, each with their own problems, are away camping, Josh Coldwell (who we could always hear) is a nicely portrayed nasty chauvinist, and Sophia Dooley is a consistently coy, bereaved mother, trying hard to find herself. Kelly Mildenhall is a convincingly unpleasant, hard to please (“don’t argue with me: I’m going to take something and then get lunch”) mother of a totally dysfunctional family. Robert Bell shines as the awful compere of the camp concert, and Karen Burns is a very sweet young thing trying to escape the bonds of her constricted family.

These down-to earth Aussie stereotypes are interestingly set within a framework of mysticism, magic and symbolism, as the fairies, to the music of the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” (both as in “Midsummer Nights Dream”) create a storm which draws the families together to face their secrets, isolation from each other and the walls between them. There is apposite use of a back projection screen to indicate settings and to augment the symbolism, and good use of the upper level, both for action and for projection of images.

This production of a fine Australian play shows considerable potential for the developing theatrical maturity of these up and coming actors and director.

University Theatre Guild presents
by Michael Gow

Directed by Aldo Longobardi

Venue: The Little Theatre | University of Adelaide
Dates: May 4 – 18, 2013
Tickets: $28 – $23

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