Left – Emily Kennedy. Cover – Emily Kennedy and Benj D'Addario
Growing up is hard to do. Life is unpredictable, and how we deal with unexpected circumstances is a good indication of just how grown up we are. Playwright Liz Newell explores how a particularly extreme unexpected circumstance forces three twentysomethings to grow up in her new play Belated. Directed by Emily McLean, Belated comes to The Blue Room as the debut production of Newell’s brand new Maiden Voyage Theatre Company.
‘New’ is the key word to keep in mind here if you want to go along with Newell on her maiden voyage. She’s set out on a course to try and do something about the issue of gender equality in WA theatre, and so, if you’re interested in hearing what a strong female has to say about life and drama, then Belated will give you an earful. It features two strong female characters going head-to-head as their worlds collide accidentally, and it certainly passes the Bechdel test, so this young writer has admirably ticked a few boxes in her quest.
That being said, Belated falls a bit short in other areas. The given circumstances we are asked to buy into as an audience feel a bit too far-fetched, and the way the characters deal with the situation doesn’t really feel authentic or realistic. The actors argue and muse without aim, and though this may reflect the kind of general aimlessness that people of that age experience, it derails the drama. The dialogue needs tightening and focus, with each character’s objectives clarified in each scene.
The main character Blythe (Emily Kennedy) has more thorns than a cactus, and there is hardly a moment of relief from her prickly attitude and huffy behaviour. She is meant to be unlikeable, yes, but perhaps McLean could have assisted Kennedy to find subtler, varied ways to express the character’s apparent endless frustration at just about everything ever. The actors aren’t given much room to interpret lines, there’s just too much ground to cover and they’re not organically working off and actively listening to each other, so delivery ends up looking and sounding mechanical.
Maja Liwszyc (Norah) and Peter Lane Townsend (Max) have worked together previously in Under This Sun at The Blue Room and thus have a comfortable rapport on stage, but Liwszyc seems ill at ease in the bones of Norah, and her performance suffers a bit because of it. Townsend’s Max is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but he manages to come out unscathed. Benj D’Addario enters as Dean, whose fate serves as the catalyst for the play’s central conflict, and in many ways acts as the show’s MacGuffin. He ends up with a lot less to do than he begins with, but he does make the most of what he’s given.
This is very much Newell’s baby, and though it’s spent a couple of years gestating, it still has a few teething problems that need to be addressed. Audiences will want to be on board with Newell for this voyage she’s embarked on, and we can only benefit from her hard work, passion and vision.
Maiden Voyage Theatre Company presents
by Liz Newell
Director Emily McLean
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre WA
Dates: 10 – 28 May 2016
Tickets: $18 – $28