‘The Return’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 27, 2018

‘The Return’ is a gripping Australian story by WA playwright and NIDA acting graduate, Reg Cribb. In 2001 it won one of theatre’s major awards, the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, and was then shortlisted for the Queensland’s Premier’s Literary Award. His ‘Last Cab to Darwin’ collected even more prestigious awards.

Written 17 years ago, when Perth – and the world in general – was a fairly uneventful and pleasant place to live, Cribb’s story came as a shock and warning. The play is based around a real train trip, when he witnessed two thugs harassing an attractive woman on a Midland to Fremantle train. With an immense amount of skill, and beautiful dialogue, Reg has interwoven several fascinating threads into this script.

This is a play that sheltered teenagers, 14 yrs. plus should see, as a warning of what can happen late at night.

In 2006, Reg Cribb adapted the play into a film, retitling it ‘Last Train to Freo’. When the two lead actors were preparing for the film, they caught the last train from Midland. Upon entering the train they saw three Aboriginal girls belting one another. When they offered to help, they were promptly told to ‘F*** off’.

 

This 80-minute, one Act, enthralling production is being presented by The Kalamunda Dramatic Society WA, in the historic Town Square Theatre, Central Mall in Kalamunda.

I heard how grateful the cast and director were to receive a most encouraging and caring communication from Reg Cribb. Reg, if you see this review, you would have been so proud of this talented team and their production.

The evening shows have curtain up at 8.00 pm. The performances are on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night, until Saturday 12th May. Saturday 5th May is Fish & Chip supper night. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm on 29th April and 6th May.

 

The scene: is a Perth train carriage on the Midland to Fremantle line, after midnight.

 The set: WOW. Owen Davis’s set is the nearest you could find to the real thing. All of the seats were genuine, in fact on entering the theatre I almost sat in the priority seat out of habit. The yellow support bars, posters and the sliding doors with light buttons at the side were all there. These doors were not simply flat, as I have seen in other productions, but curved to fit the contour of the body shell.

The furnishings took a real battering throughout the production action, and yet did not yield once – congrats to the builders, Owen Davis and Joe Isaia.

Mark Ramsey and Brittany Isaia’s sound design was perfect. There was the constant faint sound of the engine whir, background Muzak, the authentic air blast as the doors opened, and the numerous station announcements. The sound operator was Eden Sambridge; he did not miss a beat on his complex cue list. The lighting designer was again Mark Ramsey, aided by Joy Miles. The lighting effect of the old style, sodium-yellow street lights as they flashed past, was most authentic.

The production was liaised and managed by Charlotte Weber and Belinda Beatty.

 The play’s poignant opening voice-over set the timbre for this edgy drama.

 

        The train doors open and a young blonde lad, Trev (Steven Ozanne) in a vest and shorts leaps in and swings on the yellow bars. He is followed by a slim, older man, Steve (Cameron Leese) who tells him in no uncertain terms, to behave and settle down. We are left in no doubt that Steve means what he says. At the next station an attractive, smartly dressed, twenty-year old girl, Lisa (Jade Gurney) enters the train and starts to read her university course book.

       The two men sit next to her, and with light hearted banter, start to chat her up. Troubled Trev who has led a life of poverty and violence, has no subtlety; however, well-educated Steve seems to be getting through to this demure young lady.

       A couple of stations later, a miserable middle-aged woman, Maureen (Alexandra Genève) enters the carriage carrying a small suitcase. Behind Maureen is a quiet young man (Matthias Pesch) who sits in the corner and reads his book, trying to be disinterested in the belligerent behaviour of the two thugs.

 

With amazing theatre genes, director Brittany Isaia (mentored by Joe Isaia) has proved herself as an accomplished actor on several occasions, but here she has taken on the task of directing. She could easily have selected a nice easy comedy or light drama, but instead has selected one of Australia’s best written, character-based plays, with amazing dialogue. It is a piece that even the most competent directors would avoid like the plague, and she made it work – and how!!

This play requires a first class cast, as even one weak link and the whole drama could have collapsed. Brittany has chosen Leese as her lead, an experienced actor but one who up to now usually plays quiet, almost loveable parts. I was a little worried that he might not have the authority and overbearing nature, but he was supreme, totally chilling. Then came young Steve as the larrikin, who was playing his first major part, and he nailed it. Jade realised that her part wasn’t totally submissive and conquered the balance of shy and demure, with a bit of female feistiness.

This intimate theatre makes the threat and involvement even more horrendous as the audience feel that they are actually in the train carriage with the menacing, unpredictable and dangerous group, for the whole hour’s journey. The audience sat in absolute silence, mesmerised throughout this study in peer pressure, unease and repressed vehemence.

This was one of KADS best plays in some time, and is sure to be put forward for theatre awards.

The full house loved it, so booking is advisable.