Friday, March 27, 2015

Theatre: Not Me… (★★★)

Gap II
Devised and directed by Hermione Gehle
Set design by Jamie Davies
Music by Tim Newhouse
Lighting and sound by Desne Smallberger
Devised and performed by Ashana Murphy, Adam Droppert, Angela Mahlatjie, Emma Harvey, Jordan Holloway, Justin Gray, Nicholas Allen, Quaid Kirshner, and Danen Englenberg
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
March 26-28, then in schools

Theatre-in-education is a tricky business. You’re either putting established work in front of an understandably wary audience, or the lives of school-aged students on stage for people that know those lives – their own lives – much better than you do.
Not Me… is an example of the latter, and, happily, it makes a more than decent fist of it.
The story of a cohort of high school kids, mostly years 11 and 12, a couple a year or two younger, whose lives and relationships are dominated, then upturned, by social media, has been fashioned by the director Hermione Gehle and a cast of nine students at The Actor’s Hub’s Gap II course into a tightly-realised cautionary tale that I’m confident will pass the cringe test of high school audiences.

In it, an ambitious and self-absorbed student, Lydia (Ashana Murphy), plans and, quite literally, markets a parents-are-away party. The negotiations – who can and can’t come, and with whom; what needs to be provided, by whom – will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s ever undertaken them.
Things go awry when a casually malicious text broadcast by Charlie (Quaid Kirshner) outs Tony (Jordan Holloway), while he’s still coming to terms with his sexuality. Meanwhile some careless SMS flirting by Harry (Adam Droppert) with two younger girls, Emily (a firecracker performance by Emma Harvey) and her best friend Sarah (Angela Mahlatjie), has a sinister outcome, while a similar indiscretion by Lydia’s boyfriend, Gavin (Danen Englenberg) also has chaotic consequences.
The other cast members (Justin Gray and Nicholas Allen) compliment the central characters extremely well, and they have been well supported by Gehle’s astute direction, Tim Newhouse’s original score and Desne Smallberger’s precise sound and lighting.           
The story takes a less convincing turn when, after the disastrous party, the kids find themselves in a SMART (Social Media Addiction Remedial Treatment) centre, an imagined lock down rehab facility that lacks the real-life effectiveness of earlier scenes. There’s also more messaging (of the spoken, not SMS, variety) than is necessary or warranted. Gehle and the cast have done such a good job of making their point through the action and dialogue that they really had no need to labour it with a series of sermons.
The play’s terrific opening, an expertly constructed cacophony of phone chatter, could just as easily have been its finale; we’d have got the message of the impressive Not Me… loud and clear without further explanation.

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