Ava’s Grá [FringeTIX]
CC Drama @ Carclew Youth Arts (Ballroom)
10:30am, Fri 6 Mar 2009
This is the second production from CC Drama that I’ve seen; back in 2007 I caught No Vacancy, where I was the only paying punter in the audience (and joined that day by the not-seen-much-in-2009 Matt Byrne). When I rolled up to my originally scheduled session at 10:30am on Thursday, I was the only punter – period.
As I walked in the door, Ian Walker (Teacher / Producer for CC Drama – lovely chap, friendly and honest and committed) greeted me… right away, I knew that I was the audience for the day. He graciously offered me a series of options: come back for another, hopefully more populated, session; a refund (but the show was only $5! It’d seem rude to accept); or he’d get the kids to put on the performance for me anyway. “That’s a very nice offer,” I said, “but last time I was in an audience of two, with a cast of eight. That was a bit uncomfortable, so I’ll just comeback tomorrow.”
“Good idea,” said Ian, “there’s a cast of sixteen this time.”
So I returned to Carclew the next day – hell, it was almost on my way to the next show – to discover that the audience size had swelled from one to six. But that was fine; inside the Ballroom, the sound was bright and echoey and required some acclimatisation. But, with the “stage” to the south of the room, the little alcove down there was used as a holding area for the ensemble of actors when not engaged in the scene, leaving them in plain sight for much of the performance – a neat touch.
Ava’s Grá deals with Irish immigrants during the Victorian goldrush, but the central love stories could be transferred to just about any backdrop. But the production feels more a collection of disparate scenes and vignettes, rather than a cohesive story – a product of committee, rather than a clear, concise vision. And, given that the piece was indeed group-devised and student-directed, that’s pretty understandable; but the brief scenes and abundance of characters don’t really allow time for any issues to be investigated to any satisfactory depth, nor allow any characters to really develop – the exceptions being William (sadly played way too young and immature) and Ava. And there was a few grating bits in the script – too many modern idioms for my liking, and did they really say “three-thirty” back in the 1850s?
But there’s still a fair few positives to take away; Melissa Dodd and Lachlan Edwards both show huge promise, as well as the actress who played the grandmother (I’m quite annoyed I didn’t grab her name, nor manage to derive it… she was ace). And, as experience performing in front of different crowds (both small and large – they had a couple of 50+ seat sessions), it was undoubtedly useful to the CC Drama students.