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Back Inn Business - University Dramatic Society

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

It's always a great experience walking into a new musical, especially a new Australian musical by local creatives. UWA's University Dramatic Society is presently mounting "Back Inn Business" in the All Saints College Performing Arts Centre for a very limited season. Written and directed by Tash Erbrich, the show looks at relationships between family and the truth of reality television.


The entire ensemble cast of this show does a great job of keeping the energy 'reality TV high' through the show. We are introduced to a large number of characters, from members of the staff of the Paradise Hotel to the cast and crew of the reality show, all of whom are made to feel like individuals. The highly comedic moments felt well earned, from Paris Findlay's Clarole, the receptionist, and her obsession with reality television, to Drew Morgan's high-energy, 'Jonathan van Ness'-esque Ryan, and the comedic synchronicity of the Builder and Producer trios. All of these performers' physicality really allowed for the success of the comedy writing to shine through.


The dramatic plot lines are what drive a show like this along. Eva Hill and Alexia Skipper, as Eloise and Skylar respectively, do some lovely work to give us the sisterly relationship at the heart of the show. Will Oxlade and Emily Keys also work well as a 'Romeo-and-Juliet' style romantic subplot as well, especially through the Holly and Eddie song (apologies for no song titles in this review, as they were not present in the program). Some of the more heartfelt emotions across the show are played a little bit too big to allow for true contrast with the comedic moments, leaving the show feeling a little less grounded than one might like. However, these pairings do have moments of sweetness amongst the chaotic reality show momentum.


It's lovely to see a truly populated setting, with relationships between all the characters on both sides. To allow for the identification of all the characters, however, we do end up with a lot of plot lines to follow, some of which feel a bit shoe-horned together towards the end of the show. Some streamlining of the plot, with fewer threads for the audience to follow, would help the show crack along with a bit more pace and give some more room for the audience to fall in love with the characters rather than being pulled from one storyline to another.


The costumes throughout this show are effective, with a lot of nice details (special shout out to the 'Kiss the Cook' shirt at the start of Act 2). The choreography is simple and meets the ability of all of the cast. It would have been nice to see some more diversity in some of the bigger numbers and to highlight some of the dancers as well, but the choreography had clearly been drilled. The set was simple and static, which worked fine, although it did feel a little spread out across the large All Saints stage. The lighting didn't really help with this either, as there was a lot of reliance on white, full-stage washes. There are moments of interesting lighting use, especially in the 'fight' scene, which worked and brought interest to the stage, as well as some good 'night' lighting colours chosen, but some lighting to segment the stage more would pull the focus around the stage to aid the audience.


Acoustically, it's hard to talk about the lyrics and the music of the show. There were clearly some microphone and sound balance issues on opening night, which hopefully can be looked at over the course of the run. A lot of the singing was really hard to hear over the very loud backing, losing us some of the plots of the show from those sung moments. Fingers crossed, this won't be an issue later in the run.


Overall, this is a good first staging of a good concept. With some streamlining and some attention to the technical, this show has promise. One to see to have a look at some new creative Australian work, and it will be interesting to see where this show goes beyond this short season.


Paris Findlay as Clarole in Back Inn Business

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously performed with the University Dramatic Society. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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