An incredible first for an incredible playwright

CaitlinBaker and JasmineAtkins in “How to Vote”. Photo: Dayna Ransley

Theater / “How to vote”, by Julian Larnach, directed by Luke Rogers. Canberra Youth Theatre. At the Playhouse until September 10. Reviewed by ARNE FEALING.

Light, camera, action. A cleverly crafted, postmodern drama. A great lighting plot that has etched its moments in your mind.

Good actors, as always. My Canberra youth drama has come a long way – in inches, then in meters.

Perfect performances from its main characters in this storyline focused on student politics – and an ensemble that sustained every moment. Natural talent doesn’t tell you much, it tells you it’s real. And from any seat in the theater, just about every performer sounded natural.

As this seems to be a related issue in almost every show unscheduled by highly experienced directors and responsive sound and light design, the pacing was slow.

The art of this show was superb. It was absolutely well placed. Had a structured set, very well thought out, a great color palette, but it was almost impossible to care about words.

This kind of work can be wonderful for presenting things like Shakespeare when a focus on time and setting is much more important. And that’s fine for drama movies and adult professionals. However, this successful model has left “How to Vote” underappreciated for its ability to hold the attention of a mature audience, beyond its immediate guests, perhaps.

The only real element that was missing was a major emotional impact. So clean, it was like watching an episode of “Home and Away” – really brilliant, well-chosen costumes, and episodic postmodern presentation. It just didn’t have much to keep you captivated.

Small changes to the lighting and sound plot at crucial points are needed to find 15 minutes less stage time. Which can be difficult, because every moment on stage seems to take forever for each performer. Three more repetitions away from a SMASH success. Then this slow train could become a super-fast train between hearing homes in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Or just help out if these amazing actors get the opportunity to tour nationally or anywhere in the world. What they should.

A fast train is heavy and noisy, and runs on tracks like it means arriving on time, with impact. It was a cruise liner that never exceeded 15 knots after docking in Sydney within the first five minutes. Despite a wow from an opening scene. And the many others that followed.

Cleverness wrapped up in a storyline that’s usually too easy to follow and predictable – an incredible first for an incredible playwright.

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Ian Meikle, editor