No Vacancy (FringeTIX)
Canberra College Drama @ Carclew Youth Arts (Ballroom)
11:00am, Thu 22 Mar 2007
Even though Carclew is relatively close to my home, I was still sprinting to arrive on-time for this show. I got nervous when there was no-one else waiting, and could only hear a loud voice from behind the ballroom door. The door suddenly opened, and out came the producer for the ensemble, Ian Walker. He asked if I had a ticket, looked mildly disappointed when I replied in the affirmative, then explained that he was still waiting on a party of ten – would I mind waiting a couple of minutes longer? No problems, says I.
Ten minutes past the allotted starting time, in whisks Matt Byrne. “Matt Byrne, Sunday Mail” he announces without looking at Ian, without making eye contact as they shake hands. Those magic words gained him free access to a show he couldn’t be arsed rolling up on-time for. Not that I’m one to poke ridicule at Professional Reviewers.
And so it was that Mr Byrne and I were the only two people sitting in the front row – nay, any row – of the Ballroom for this production that, as indicated by the programme, is the result of “a good-old brainstorm about what makes us mad, sad or glad”. And, to be completely honest, the issues – the environment, social acceptance, consumerism – are presented in a somewhat simplistic manner, but at least there’s no ill-advised veers into contrived political commentary.
As for the performances – well, for a young cast, they play it relatively straight with a huge amount of enthusiasm and heart. The young Alex (Amy Porritt) is fabulously wide-eyed and innocent; the smokily sultry pouts of Anika (Jessye McGregor) likewise. The set is a simple set of five vertical screens, and the direction makes adequate use of them. There’s a sudden stop late in the play, where the audience is offered a choice for the progression of the play; I wanted to go with the ending that returned essential services to the characters – you know, be nice – but Mr Byrne wanted to go with the Bad ending. Surprise, surprise.
In the end, this was a competent piece of work by a talented group of youngsters. It avoids most of the pitfalls that student productions seem to fall into, and should hopefully prove a great experience for all those involved. Hopefully their season yields more than one paying customer per show.