Wings2Fly Theatre
Holden Street Theatres
Until 11 Jan 2019

Review by Sarah Westgarth

There’s a cliché rule in the entertainment world to never work with animals or children, but if the young people at Wings2Fly Theatre are anything to go by, you want as much of these performers as possible. ‘Bad Auditions by Bad Actors’ does not have anything ground-breaking to say thematically, but it honestly does not matter—the show is fun, fast-paced and hilarious, and the cast, consisting entirely of teenagers and younger, do an outstanding job.

The premise of the play is simple—Claire Daniels (Lauren Jones) has been working with Red Barn Theatre for years, and has now been given the opportunity to step up to director with their annual production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Recruiting slacker Ryan as her assistant, Claire attempts to go about casting the two main roles of the show. Unfortunately, the auditionees range from incompetent to insane. Claire and Ryan are subjected to method actors, demanding agents and even a puppeteer, as they slowly sink into despair at finding the right romantic leads. Lauren Jones has the difficult task of keeping the show moving, mostly playing the straight man to the shenanigans around her, and she does so with aplomb. She has a confident and commanding stage presence, and portrays Claire’s increasing frustration and desperation perfectly. Byron Jeffery as her easy-going sidekick Ryan is the stand-out of a show that has a lot of highlights. In a role that could have become a caricature, Jeffery brings out some amazing quirks and nuance to the part, and gets some of the biggest laughs of the night. His comic timing is excellent, and the moment where he is confronted with his crush and collapses into a bundle of nerves and outrageous lies is hysterical. Keep your eye on this one.

The rest of the cast are also incredibly solid, with every young performer committing to the weird and wacky antics that are asked of them. Highlights include Flynn Doyle as an intense acting coach, Joshua Elford as the method actor, and Lily Williams as an actor who insists on running through her exuberant warm-up exercises prior to auditioning. Every one of the auditions has its memorable moments though, with the cast giving it their all. Some of the performances play a little broad or rushed, as is often the case with young and inexperienced actors, but never enough to be distracting. The simplicity of the premise never wears thin either, as it could have. The tight script by Ian McWethy keeps it all moving, and is delightfully witty, and somehow managing to never go over the top.

Directors Michelle Nightingale and Alicia Zorkovic have staged this play with great intention and care, and the strongest part of it all is seeing how much fun the cast is having onstage. Yes, they are sometimes caught giving a little smile when one of their lines gets a big laugh, but it is endearing rather than cloying. For a show put together in less than a week, it’s clear it was created in a disciplined yet supportive environment that allows every actor to take risks and have their moment in the spotlight. This is exactly what youth theatre should be.

Running for only two performances, it’s a shame more people won’t get a chance to see this little gem of a show, particularly for those involved in theatre who will recognise a lot of the behaviour on display. (The biggest laughs often came from the fellow directors, actors and drama teachers in the audience!) ‘Bad Auditions for Bad Actors’ was a thoroughly enjoyable time, and it’s exciting to see how much young local talent is being cultivated.