Left – Ashleigh Cummings. Photo – Dylan Evans
Samson, a co-production between La Boite and Belvior, has all of hallmarks of any good coming of age story. There’s a love story, a family mystery, struggles to create identity and differentiate from the norm, new experiences in the adult worlds of guilt and death and new expectations from religion and family. It’s a lot to tackle in just over one hour, and the cast of Samson take to this task with a disarming enthusiasm.
Samson tells the story of three teens, Essie (Ashleigh Cummings), Beth (Belinda Jombwe) and Sid (Charles Wu), who have recently lost their friend in a tragic accident. Newcomer Rabbit (Benjamin Creek), whose family has come to town to escape their own tragedy, is an unwelcome arrival, though his cheerful nature sees him persist in trying to befriend the locals. Stuck in a small, regional town with a lot to think about and not much to do, Essie allows Rabbit to gradually get closer, as grief and secrets create a divide between her and her lifelong friends.
Written by first time playwright Julia Rose-Lewis, Samson covers a lot of ground in a short time, but at its heart it is a play about friendship, grief and guilt. As the characters move through their own stages of grieving, they experience grief for not just their friend, but also for the naivety of the childhood that they now leave behind. This play explores the way friendships change as children grow into adults with touching honesty. That said, because there are so many other topics bought up within the play; religion, family illness, race, gender and sexuality, to name a few, the exploration of each topic feels a little shallow. Some items, such as Beth’s mother’s breast cancer, briefly mentioned, give great backstory to each character but make the overall piece feel a bit jumpy and disconnected.
Each of the four young actors gives a heartfelt, honest performance. They all work in that beautifully aware state of young actors who are at once giving their all to living their characters, but at the same time are totally aware of the audience and theatre space that they inhabit. They’re enthusiastic and full of energy in telling this story which is obviously close to their hearts.
There are some key performance aspects that require polishing, however, that will come with experience. Clear diction is lacking across the board, which means audience members miss moments of the fast paced dialogue. Compounding this, the directed staging for the round was troublesome for the audience, with actors sometimes sitting still with their backs facing three quarters of the audience during dialogue.
Also an interesting choice by director Kristine Landon-Smith, was the actors’ movement around the set in circling walks, used to demonstrate distance and changes of place. While their destination was always clear and this gave the play a good sense of time and space, the action seemed contrived in performance and was a bit boring to watch. On the other hand, there were some beautifully choreographed scenes, particularly for Benjamin Creek’s Rabbit, who moved his body superbly.
Overall this play was good and entertaining, though its pacing didn’t make it as gripping as it could have been. The actors are charming, the story oh-so-relatable for anyone who is passing or has passed through adolescence, and the rural Australian town setting spot on. Samson is well worth a watch for anyone keeping an eye out for burgeoning Australian talent; a bright future is ahead for all four performers and writer Julia Rose-Lewis.
La Boite Theatre Company and Belvoir present
by Julia-Rose Lewis
Director Kristine Landon-Smith
Venue: La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre | 6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove Village QLD
Dates: 17 April – 2 May 2015
Bookings: laboite.com.au | (07) 3007 8600