Friday, 5 October 2018

Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl - Theatre Review

What: Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl
When: 4 - 14 October 2018
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Written by: Jane Miller
Directed by: Beng Oh
Performed by: Keith Brokcett, John Marc Desengano, Annie Lumsden, Andrea mcCannon and Glenn van Oosterom
Design by: Emily Collett
Lighting by Dans Maree Sheehan
Sound by Zac Kazepis
Andrea McCannon, John Marc Desengano, Glenn van Oosterom and Keith Brockett
Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl is a mouthful of a title, but it is the name of the new play written by Miller and directed by Beng Oh being performed at La Mama Courthouse until 14 October. Such an unassuming sounding play is a smokescreen for a show which packs a wallop, sizzles with energy and takes you places you have no idea you are heading for.

It is suprisingly rare to see shows with this much energy outside of VCA theatre student productions - Hotel Now is the only other group in Melbourne which springs to mind and they actually are VCA graduates so this 15 Minutes From Anywhere production really does stand out in the crowd. Played in traverse (which I love!!!) Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl bounces around and across the stage at a breakneck pace bringing a barrel full of laughs before blowing the mind with this post truth examination of The Rake's Progress.

Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl investigates just what a woman will do for love. Starting with the girl (Lumsden) being tutored in the art of 'getting a man' which includes not being smart, ambitious, or independent McCannon teaches her to laugh at the man's jokes and like whatever he likes.

Inevitably the girl meets a boy (Brockett), they have sex and her very rich parents disown her. The boy wants to be in a band so the girl tries to get him into her brother's (Desegno) band. They don't want him because he can't sing so she solves the problem in a most unexpected way, clearing the way for him to pursue his dream only to hear him say he doesn't want that dream anymore. Instead he wants to be a business man.

Her pattern for problem solving continues as does his vacillation between career choices. In the end it is clear all he really wants is to be rich. As with The Rake's Progress the boy leaves the girl to marry a rich woman (McCannon).

It is really at this point in the play Miller starts telling her own story and everything changes although perhaps the logic is a bit confusing given all the set ups so far. I feel, given everything that has happened in the play, the logical thing would have been for the girl to kill the wife, but it would be hard to have that scenario fit the story Miller wants to tell - which is confronting to say the least! Having said that, the final twist is well worth that small element of confusion.

As I said earlier Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl is played in traverse which is perfect for the picaresque structure of the play. As the actors run on and off stage it is like the pages in a book or photo album are being flipped to tell the next part of the story. Collett has created a wonderfully simple but clever palette to move the story through its 3 act structure and Beng Oh has directed the set changes well, not allowing the energy to drop.

As each of the three layers are revealed the depth of Collett's understanding of the world of the play is revealed and her choice in the final act is genius, moving us out of the literal just as Miller moves us out of the comical into a completely different realm of being, into another version of truth in this 'progress'.

Sheehan's lighting is functional, simple, and quite beautiful using a lovely rose tone to augment the open white signature of the work. Kazepis has created a great sound design, although I do have some small hesitation about his choices for the third act. In particular there is a transitional choice used a few time which is quite jarring. It is not that I don't like it. It is more that I don't think it has been worked into the rhythm and pace of the performances and the lighting properly. That is just a personal aesthetic though.

The acting ensemble in Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl are brilliant. Most of them have worked with Beng Oh and Miller several times previously and I think the synergy of their working relationships really shines through. I admit to really being impressed with van Oosterom's work, but everyone is brilliant so that is probably an unfair shout out...

Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl is a fantastically wild ride but don't be fooled by all the laughter. The material is deep and painful. What is the incredible thing about Just A Boy is Miller's ability to understand and demonstrate cause and effect in such a blindingly clear fashion. This play shows us that life and people are truly farcical, but also incredibley dangerous. Everybody is.

4.5 stars

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Jane and Company. How we wish this fascinating play would go on tour up to our neck of the woods - to the Jetty Theatre in Coffs Harbour. We are missing out on something really special.

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