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Three Short Plays - Garrick Theatre

Reviewed by Caroline Stafford


There aren’t too many opportunities to see fresh content and new directors, and with three unique short plays in One Act Season: Three Short Plays at the Garrick theatre, we’re spoilt for choice.

While each of the plays varied greatly, they all shared simplistic sets and lighting - easy to strike in the short timeframe between sets. Unfortunately, this simplicity doesn’t create a rich atmosphere for the performances with just simple pieces of staging and props like portraits, small vintage furniture and the odd movable log, all acting as signifiers of decade and place. It was a shame that there wasn’t more variance in lighting, it did lead to the staging feeling very ‘flat’ and one-dimensional, where there was an opportunity to add to the atmosphere here as well.

The first play, Overtones, was simple in its premise but extremely well executed. A cast of all women, the protagonists were two catty high-society women, trying to one-up each other, while being ‘haunted’ by human manifestations of their inner id. The costuming between the two pairs (woman and her id) echoed each other nicely - one pair was in black and floral dresses, while the other was in polka dots. It would have been nice for the costume to give the audience more of a clue to the period in which the play was set as this remained annoyingly non-specific. While the acting of the ‘ids’ was at times a bit over the top, the exaggeration added to the absurdity of the piece. I was yearning to see more!

The second play, The Worker was tonally very different. It was a semi-dystopian piece about a worker moving his workstation into his home to keep up with the unsustainable demands of an organisation that has a deadly response to any perceived threat to productivity. In addition, his wife was dealing with her desire to have a child, which the husband believes will be a reason for his Orwellian company to terminate him, permanently. The plot itself was sound but did not give a real exploration of the issues that it presented - the script glossed over some of the unique and interesting aspects that would have hooked the audience's attention more. Disappointingly, the acting in this piece didn't match up to the potential of the plot. It was hard to find any nuance in the singular exasperated note of the man and the portrayal of the woman seemed whiny and childish. Billed as a dark comedy, it failed to deliver on both aspects. Perhaps a script that needs some workshopping as it didn't really hit the mark it was aiming for.

The third play, The Mysterious Amateur Tramp set itself apart from the other two pieces as it was distinctly longer and clearly had more time and effort put into its production. Billing itself as a ‘significant’ Australian story, it tells the story of journalist and author of many crime novels, Aidan de Brune, and his journey around the perimeter of Australia on foot, and unassisted. The acting here was excellent from both the leads and the supporting actors who dropped in and out throughout. De Brune was portrayed as a man who was driven by his longing for space and stories, while his conscience was perfectly pitched to air his inner thoughts without being too comical - just the right tone of bitterness. While the significance of this story might be debatable, it does seem a tad tone-deaf in this day and age to put on the story of a white man who left his wife and child, to walk around Australia and further entrench the colonisation of the period.

One Act Season: Three Short Plays is a unique night out - a place to see new directors cut their teeth on interesting one-acts. Much like short stories, these give a compressed window into a narrative and can be both extremely engaging and at the same time not enough. While some of the choices in this season at the Garrick were perhaps not the best, the majority of the actors carried on with style and flair. And Overtones certainly set the ‘tone’ for an interesting evening.

The Mysterious Amateur Tramp cast. Image Credit: Kate Sanders/VERGE Studio

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.



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