University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
The Little Theatre
Review by Fran Edwards
Written in 1891 the subject matter of this play is still startlingly relevant. It deals with the sexual awakening of its teenage protagonists. We may not view the subject of sex education in the same light as it was viewed then, but the dilemma of what to tell them and when still exists. The contradicting pull of parents, school and peers also still exists.
This production was a little tentative on opening night but succeeded in engaging the audience and developed as it went. The young cast was enthusiastic but required a little more discipline and confidence. The lead players showed an understanding of their roles and reflected the many facets of these characters. Greg Gorton and Marlon Dance-Hooi were just right as the two friends at the centre of the storm. Renee Gentle was nicely vulnerable as the "innocent" Wendla, who asks to be told the facts of life and then is overtaken by circumstance.
Strong performances were given by Melissa Bergland and Laura Haig, particularly in the roles of Headmaster and Professor. Good support also from Kylie Barrie and Aldo Longobardi as the conflicted parents. Natalie Harrison was confident and competent as the "fallen" Ina.
The staging was interesting (I never would have thought of making those brick walls disappear by wrapping them in brown paper) making good use of the minimalist set which worked well. I was particularly impressed by the lighting, designed by Ben Flett, which helped create the right ambience on many occasions. I'm still not sure about the costumes for the 'children' but it did prove a very useful way of discerning who was who among the 'children' and 'adults'.
Greg Elliott's direction was well balanced and used his young cast to good effect. The Little Theatre is an interesting space to work and Elliott made the most of its many levels. Overall it was an interesting and thought-provoking evening.