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Be More Chill - Art In Motion

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


Off the back of their recent foray into golden-age theatre, Art In Motion Theatre Company have switched gears entirely with this production. From the start of the show to the end, this staging of Be More Chill packs a lot in - bright colours, big dance numbers and high energy from all concerned. With easily recognisable character tropes and an interesting take on a familiar plot line, it is a fun ride from beginning to end.

Elliot Peacock taking the central role of Jeremy was excellent. He balanced the sweet and awkward moments with Christine (Teah Steward) with the rest of the rollercoaster this character takes through the show. Clara Lee as Brooke and Asha Perry as Chloe were both also standouts, bringing humanity to otherwise dislikable "popular girls" and hitting the comedic beats with precision (a particular shout out to the synchronised speech). Candice Preston should also be commended for stealing her scene as the Scary Stockperson, a small role but one that was used to its full effect. Whilst Marshall Brown as the S.Q.U.I.P. gave us a good performance and relationship with Jeremy, there were moments where he lacked presence in the space, lessening the power that this character needs. Similarly, it would have been nice to have Christine feel more differentiated from the other female-presenting characters on the stage. Both Steward and Brown sang these roles well, but they did tend to blend into the rest of the cast at times when we really wanted them to feel more distinct.

Traditionally, this show is usually done with a cast of ten. Jarvys McQueen-Mason has chosen to pad out the show by splitting up some of the smaller roles and inserting an ensemble. There are times when this expansion is very effective (such as the scenes around Jake's party), but at others, the stage feels tight and the ensemble is almost distracting from the core action. This often also happens during the choreographed numbers as, due to the number of people on the stage, we lose the leading characters we're supposed to be following in the action. There was some choreography that didn't feel entirely necessary and didn't appear to have been drilled as much, which took away from the scenes. On the other hand, the precision and cleanness of some numbers, like "Do You Wanna Ride?" was of a high standard.

The decision to be flexible with the genders of some characters should also be commended in this production, but there are moments when we lose some of the humour, and gain some interesting flavours to certain relationships that may not be intended. This is particularly evident in the character of Michael, who, whilst embodied well by Sophie Boyland, never quite came across as enough of a loser for the events that happen within the script, and some of the lines hit differently when the role is portrayed by a female-presenting performer. This should not reflect on the cast, but rather the fact that the flexibility isn't inbuilt into the script itself.

The core element of the set is a riser that splits the stage space in half, with the back raised and delineated with a large television set outline, with a substantial ramp centre stage to allow traversal of the space. Unfortunately, the set doesn't add to the show particularly - whilst a good concept, it limited the flexibility of the space and there were a lot of spacing issues when the cast was dancing around the ramp. This may be down to a tight rehearsal period where the set was available, or rehearsing in a space that didn't take these elements into account. Additionally, the large television structure design, being that of a late 1980's CRT, set an expectation about what our era was, which then didn't match with a lot of the costuming and smaller personal props.

The vocals in this production were exceptional - Brittany Isaia and Keiran Ridgway have clearly worked well with this talented cast to perfect the harmonies and flex the music to fit the entire casts' voices. There were some minor cast-band mic balance issues on opening night, but these will rectify themselves throughout the season. From a lighting perspective, there were some excellent moments, but in general, it didn't feel like it added to the show. The alignment of the lighting meant we got a lot of characters wandering out of their light, or being lit from the neck down only and not having the space to move into to fix it. Having only one spotlight also made for some odd lack of light at times when characters needed to be lit. The use of projections was a great idea, but it was often washed out by the downstage lighting, lessening its effectiveness. The costumes were successful and well matched to the tone of the show, other than the occasional out-of-place detail for some minor characters, with a particular shout-out to the Halloween party costuming.

It is always nice to see new teams of creatives come together to do shows they love and to see casts of performers really enjoying themselves on the stage. This is one to catch if you have a teen, know a teen or remember being a teen - it's a high-energy ride with some excellent performances. Worth a look.

Asha Perry (Chloe), Elliot Peacock (Jeremy) and Clara Lee (Brooke) - staged promotional image by Curtain Call Creatives.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously performed with Art In Motion Theatre Company at Don Russell Performing Arts Centre. Due to the potential of a perceived conflict of interest, the production team was contacted and permission was granted for this reviewer to attend on behalf of Theatre Reviews Perth. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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