The Last Train to Madeline

The Last Train to Madeline

The Last Train to Madeline Rating

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The Last Train to Madeline is an emotive and nostalgic play that follows childhood best friends Maddy and Luke in Wangaratta from the ages of 8, 16, and 23 as their lives collide.

Staged at the Meat Market in North Melbourne, the set was immediately striking: the floor was filled with three old TVs flickering with static, while the rest of the space was filled with train tracks, fake plants, and a structure above.

The chemistry between the two leads (Ruby Maishman as Maddy and Eddie Orton as Luke) carries the show- it’s no easy feat to have a production with only 2 characters, and they make it look effortless, with a natural rapport. Much like the world of a child that revolves around only yourself and your best friend – we never see any other characters on stage, but their presence is felt – especially that of Maddy’s father, the driving force behind many of her actions.

Maishman’s Maddy effectively transitioned from an 8-year-old coming to terms with a stifling town and a mother who can’t look after her properly to a teenager desperate to escape. The audience can see how Orton’s Luke has been deeply impacted by Maddy’s actions—from a hopeful and eager-to-please 8-year-old to a 23-year-old who tells her that he is “tired.”

Utilising the same costumes for all 3 time periods, we as the audience are clued in by Maishman and Orton’s juvenile lilt and innocent conversations to indicate they are 8; these are noticeably absent as the characters age before our eyes.

At times, I felt anxious for the fate of the seminal prop of the video camera- especially in the scenes as 8-year-olds where it was getting thrown around – but both actors exhibited immense skill in their physicality, dodging the many TVs lining the stage and climbing the elevated structure (sitting on the edge of a row gave me an advantage of having the best view for these scenes).

The projection of the video camera’s live film onto the TVs reinforced the sense that these vignettes of Maddy and Luke’s lives were Luke’s memories being replayed. The play’s pacing continually draws you in, as the pieces of two characters’ lives are constantly being put together, and we revisit their most formative moments.

Despite the heightened, biting dialogue between the two leads, humour shined through: “You can’t marry your dog; she’s a girl,” says 8-year-old Luke…. “It’s 2003,” replies Maddy, cleverly grounding the audience in the past amid a soundtrack of 2000s-2010s indie pop and classics.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie or TV show of The Last Train to Madeline were a possibility for the future; the audience couldn’t help but root for (and sometimes see themselves in) the two youths. The dreamlike quality of the staging and the ruthlessly accurate adolescent dialogue made for exhilarating and comforting viewing.

The Last Train To Madeline is in its final week. Sessions run each night at 7:30 p.m. with the closing night scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 29th. Please don’t miss your chance to see this unique new Australian play.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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OZ Acts As You Like it

OZ Acts As You Like it

OZActs’ rendition of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at the Williamstown Botanic Gardens provided an accessible and high-quality theatrical experience.

Despite rain earlier in the day, the setting of the Botanic Gardens provided a perfect backdrop. The atmosphere outside the performance space was immediately immersive, with people dressed in period costumes milling about, playing music, and interacting with the audience before the show commenced.

One of the highlights of the production was Rosalind’s portrayal, whose expressive movements and charismatic presence captivated the audience from the start. Touchstone (the court Jester) also stood out, entertaining the crowd before the show and during intervals with his witty antics. He even indulged in playful banter with the audience, encouraging them to throw fruit at him.

Despite the inherent complexity of Shakespearean language, the play was easy to follow, pleasing the wide audience, which included many family members of the cast (which Touchstone pointed out to the audience) and children. Song interludes helped set the scenes, and classic lines such as “all the world’s a stage” were delivered poignantly, resonating with the audience.

The chemistry between cousins Rosalind and Celia was another standout aspect of the performance, particularly in scenes involving scheming and plotting. The actors delivered every line with confidence, and the quick costume changes between characters were executed impressively, adding to the dynamic nature of the production (noting that the whole production was outdoors – so there was no traditional dressing room!).

The side and background characters added layers of comedy to the play, contributing to its light-hearted and comic tone. Despite this, the production skillfully balanced the humour with the darker subject matter, reminding the audience of the characters’ banishment by the Duke.

The outdoor setting was utilized to its fullest potential, with the production cleverly using the space. For example, during a scene where a character hangs love poems about Rosalind, blank scrolls are hung on tree branches, enhancing the immersive experience.

The costumes were exemplary period pieces, with each outfit contributing to the characters’ disguises and identities. From the intricate details to the versatility of accents and mannerisms, the costumes added depth to the characters and the overall narrative.

The production maintained a high energy level throughout despite the challenges of staging an outdoor play in unpredictable weather conditions. Moments such as Rosalind fainting and needing to be carried (“Counterfeit, I assure you”) provided memorable highlights, showcasing the actors’ commitment to their roles.

Overall, OZActs’ “As You Like It” production at Williamstown Botanic Gardens was a delightful rendition of Shakespeare’s timeless classic.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Comedy Roulette – Take The Gamble

Comedy Roulette

Down one of Melbourne’s scenic laneways on a mellow Wednesday night in Theory bar, Comedy Roulette was about to begin. Hanging plants and disco balls adorned the booked-out show, which was filled with enthusiastic first-time attendees.

The premise was simple and clever – as our two bubbly, enigmatic hosts, Kru Harale and Olga Loitsenko, explained to us – behind the comedians on stage, a large spinning wheel was to be projected, containing a wide variety of prompts from “what Sydney hates about Melbourne”’ (which Hannah Sainty nailed – the good-looking people, and the good coffee) to “self-help titles that won’t sell”.

The wheel would begin to spin when the audience chanted, “Spin…that…wheel!”. The line-up of comedians rotates per show (much like the wheel itself), with this show featuring Suren Jayemanne, Diana Nguyen, Charlie Lewin, Hannah Sainty, Henry Yan, Zach Riley, Chris Nguyen, Aarti Vincent, Oliver Coleman, and the two fabulous hosts. A callout of “Who in the audience likes gambling?!” was met with a chuckle, and the games had begun – with the wheel’s prompts being a surprise to the comedians.

The show kicked off with Olga bantering with the front row and introducing the audience to a winning Estonian Eurovision song (and hilariously noting how widely Eurovision had been expanded for Australia even to be included).

Comedy Roulette

Oliver then made the audience giggle with his ‘enlightened’ persona, complaining about people meditating in public in Coburg. The laughs of the audience were magnified at various times throughout the night when jokes featured familiar Melbourne locations and tropes – later, the famously unclean Flinders Street Railway Station toilets would be the butt of a joke.

The comics employed various ways of engaging with the audience to spin the supposedly “voice-activated” wheel throughout the night, including stating “, We are a cult, and we must chant!”. Charlie didn’t miss a beat when the wheel had a momentary technical delay – he casually bantered with the audience like they were old friends, giving some sage words of wisdom – when your boomer Dad cracks it at one of your siblings – take that as an opportunity to add in your own personal crises to the mix.

After a quick drink break, the comedy took a more introspective turn, with topics ranging from Hannah’s reflections on the absurdities of health food shops to Suren’s thoughts on the complexities of religion, family dynamics, and the true crime genre (which Chris noted he loved listening to, but not partaking in). I laughed particularly hard at Zach’s recollection of a horrible past job in an unsanitary pub kitchen and when an audience member asked Aarti about her ‘worst Tinder date’, as she dryly explained that she was married before Tinder was even invented.

Henry charmed the audience with his awkward and endearing persona and stories. Diana’s candid anecdote about her mother’s horrified reaction to a previous comedy show entitled ‘Naked’ ended Comedy Roulette on a high, leaving the audience in stitches with her unabashed humour.

Throughout the night, each of the 11 comedians delivered an audience-engaging set of observant, clever, and witty jokes—the perfect mix of pre-prepared stand-up material and fast-paced improvisation. Comedy Roulette is a gateway drug to the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival, in which many of the aforementioned comics will be performing. Take a gamble if you dare, as this is a room full of comedians to watch.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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