The weeklong Dramafest opened at Playlovers in Floreat on Monday night with a welcoming introduction by an erudite man with a beard who was eventually revealed to be Paul Treasure, President of the Independent Theatre Association. The adjudicator for the one act drama festival is none other than reigning Performing Arts WA (PAWA) Best Actor, Adam T Perkins who is also a director and producer of theatre. Festival Director Emma Davis was in attendance to greet the small but enthusiastic audience.
There were three one act productions on the night with the performer for the 10 minute spotlight unfortunately unable to participate due to illness. At the end of the evening Perkins gave his feedback which was instructive as he was coming at it very much from an acting/directing perspective. For me, however, the first session highlighted how important good writing is, without which you’re behind the proverbial from the get go.
The night began with what proved to be quite an inspired choice – a wildcard entry from the barely concluded Youthfest. Simply titled The Audition from SPY (which I assume is Stirling Players Youth) this was a cleverly written script that was enthusiastically and well performed. There were numerous theatre in-jokes and there is a certain joy to watching a young teenage actor deadpan a Beckett or Sam Shepard reference. The names of the performers weren’t listed but they played: the impatient and harried stage manager conducting the auditions; the nervous female auditionee; the ebullient actress well under the imaginary show’s minimum age of 15; an enthusiastic mime; and the pompous actor who thought nothing of improving Medea by adding a little Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Finally, there was the underappreciated assistant who had a vent about her lot in theatre life. It was a clever script that was lapped up by both the young actors and the audience.
The next production was a locally written piece called Flight of Fancy by Garrick Theatre. The premise of which was that a husband and wife both end up booking competing holidays because he thinks she is unhappy and she thinks he’s having an affair (after overhearing him talking to the female travel consultant on the phone). A promising enough set-up but this needed to be fast-paced and witty. Unfortunately the writing just wasn’t there and it ended up being more awkward and stilted as the actors battled valiantly but didn’t have the ammunition that a cracking script could have given this. Flight of Fancy was written and directed by Luke Heath and starred Luke Miller, Shelly Miller, Claudia Lloyd and Charles Pratt.
By comparison, the final piece, At Home With The Herringbones by Stirling Theatre did have a strong script and an excellent cast that gave it real justice. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wordplay so being playful with language is right in my wheelhouse – dangling modifiers, incorrect word usage, ending sentences with prepositions, all that sort of wonderful Grammar Nazi stuff that can make people’s head explode. What made this even more satisfying is that the pompous Lord Herringbone’s pedantic correction of language and grammar was an important character trait not merely the writer showing off. The story slowly revealed itself to be somewhat of a mystery with a cheeky bent and a few late twists along the way. There were some nice sight gags as well. Economically staged and slickly performed this was well received by the audience. Written and Directed by Bob Charteris, the play starred Fran Gordon, Paul Anderson, Peter Flanigan, Alexandra D’Ulisse, and Georgi Ivers.
Dramafest continues 7.30pm Wednesday 24 September at Hackett Hall in Floreat.