‘Trapped’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 21, 2015

‘Trapped’ is a season of three assorted and delightful short plays. They are being presented by the Harbour Theatre Group at the ‘Camelot Theatre’, within the Mosman Park Memorial Hall, 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park.

The show is each Friday and Saturday evening until 19th September. The curtain up is at the slightly earlier time of 7.30 pm. There are matinees on the 19th and 20th, both commencing at 2.00 pm.

 

‘Early Frost’ is a mystery written by Douglass Parkhirst in 1956. Parkhirst was born in Philadelphia 1914.

Directed by Jo Sterkenburg, who won a Finley ‘Best Actress’ Award.

It is 1950. The scene is a loft in a large, crumbling country house owned by two old maiden sisters.

   When the parents of young Alice (Chloé Walker) are killed in an accident, the local social worker, Mrs Clayton (Meredith Hunter) has the task of finding the nearest relatives. She discovers Alice’s Aunt Louise (Charlotte Weber) and her strange, extremely nervous, sister Hannah (Ann Speicher). Hannah thinks Alice is an old school friend, Lydia (Jadzia Hunter) from half a century earlier.

   Why is Hannah so worried by Alice’s presence?

The director has captured the creepy atmosphere of the loft adventure very well. The two youngsters (Jadzia’s first play) showed real, advanced stage skills. A simple story that worked very well.

 

‘The Living Hell’ was written in 1960 by Manchester born, Anthony Booth (not the Tony Booth of TV’s 1960s ‘Till Death Us Do Part’). On leaving Oxford University Booth became an actor, but was soon called up for World War ll duty in Burma, under the command of Lord Mountbatten.

The location is a women’s, Japanese prisoner of war camp in Malaysia at the end of WW II. There are some camp beds and basic rustic furniture. The cast are wearing threadbare dresses and are looking dishevelled.

 

     Stevie (Kerri-Anne Malley) helps a sick, elderly member of their group, Mrs Glen (Julie Mackay) to a camp bed. The medical sister of the prisoner-of-war camp, internee Lloyd (Lauri Curtain) checks the patient, but with only water and very little food, there is little that she can do. The two younger girls, Pru (Natasha Smith) and Sally (Riti Smith) offer Mrs Glen what food they have.

     When the well-fed, Mrs Maiche (Sarah Hopkins) re-joins the group, outspoken Gwen (Laura Winter – very good) has her own ideas as to why Maiche is looking so well.

 

This play with complex emotions was presented by skilled actress, Grace Hitchin in her directing debut. It was a difficult play for even an experienced director to tackle, a bold attempt, but a little more work required on the finer points such as the lighting and body language, to establish a solid, tense atmosphere of fear and depression. Well received by the audience.

 

‘Flowers for Algernon’ is a very moving, character study written by Daniel Keyes. It was rejected several times by publishers because of the story’s ending, yet it still went on to win the Hugo Award for ‘Best Short Story’ with its 1960’s adaption by David Rogers.

     Two research neurologists are talking to a teacher, Alice Kinnian (Nicole Miller), who works at a college for retarded adults. They are chatting about an experiment that they are carrying out on a mouse – Algernon. The senior Professor Nemur (Willy Smeets) is heartless, being more interested in his experiment succeeding rather than maintaining ethics. His assistant, Dr Strauss (Paul Cook), supervises the results and progress of the experiments being carried out by Burt Seldon (Daniel Elsegood). Until now the surgical tests have been carried out on Algernon, but then the scientists hear about phenylketonuria sufferer, Charlie Gordon (Chris Reid). He is a young deliveryman with an IQ of 68, cruelly berated by his mother for being stupid and for having slightly scandalous thoughts; however, Charlie is desperate to learn. The team starts to wonder if their mouse experiments and results could now be transferred to humans.

   Will Charlie ever find happiness? Will Prof Nemur be satisfied with the intellectual results?

 

Sadly this wonderful work is in the 100 most complained about books. It has even been removed from school libraries because a parent considered it was ‘filthy and immoral’.

‘Algernon’ was directed by the multi-award winning Sarah Christiner, the cast is also ‘star studded’ having gained many awards and nominations. Although this was only his second play, Chris Reid showed amazing promise for the future. His grasp of Charlie’s complex character and the subtle way that he depicted the changes and regressions was outstanding. Congrats to Chris and the director for helping him tune his part’s character.

Programmes of short plays are a wonderful way of giving a chance to first-time actors and directors, but occasionally they are looked upon as simple and unimportant, with little effort put into them. This is actually completely the wrong approach. There is a much shorter time to create atmosphere, tell the story and satisfy the audience, so MORE work should be put into the short play. This final play did just that. The lighting was clever and advanced, the cast well selected and very well directed, the costumes exactly what was required – in short, very well presented and so completely grasped the emotion required.

A good mix of plays giving a very pleasant night out.