Shadows Of The Past

Shadows of the Past

Shadows Of The Past Rating

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Since 1991, Endeavour Theatre Company has been delighting audiences with its community productions. Their latest offering, Shadows Of The Past, a murder mystery written and directed by talented member Clyde Goodenough, exemplifies the best of a small but committed theatre group.

On arrival at the venue, a full house was present, and audience members found a “Guess Who Did It” sheet of paper on their seats to be submitted at intermission. This interactive element added an engaging twist, making the audience feel like active participants in solving the mystery.

The play centres on Mrs Willoughby, an imperious matriarch, who invites her nephew Jonathon, his American fiancée, her solicitor Mason James, a nun with a past with Jonathon, and an eccentric psychic for a weekend of ‘revelations’ and the reading of her will. Adding humour is Musgrove, the old bumbling butler. Amidst a storm, secrets unravel, leading to murder. But who did it? Adding to the Clyde Goodenough Cluedo-like characters are the police sergeant and Inspector, which add to the intrigue in the second act.

The play is set in the Willoughy Hall manor, and the room is replete with ornate couches, fancy paintings on the walls, a roaring fireplace, making it clear we are in a wealthy manorhouse. In addition, there were clever scene changes as we found ourselves in other rooms within the manor. Clever use of lighting to isolate private conversations not overheard by other Willoughby Hall guests enhanced the mysterious ambience. After each scene, the curtains briefly closed with suitably mysterious music playing, giving the audience time to think about what they had seen and ponder what was coming.

Like the best murder mysteries, it is also important to bring the element of fun, and the script delivers enjoyable moments for all cast members. Opening nights are always challenging and exciting, and an opening night for a brand new play, never performed before in front of an audience, is an even higher level of difficulty. Suffice it to say the performances from the ensemble cast got stronger and stronger as the play progressed, which bodes well for a successful production run.

The ensemble cast also navigated the delicate balance of playing exaggerated stereotypes that a murder mystery show requires without falling into caricature. Their understanding of their characters grew stronger as the play progressed, promising even better performances in future shows.

Congratulations to Endeavour Theatre Company and all the cast and crew for putting on an excellent show. This is a fun production with a well-thought-out story and script. While the first act effectively introduced the characters and set the stage, it would have been great to witness a bit more foreshadowing—like subtle hints or a character’s brief slip—that could enhance the suspense and make later revelations even more impactful for the final act.

My personal endeavour to correctly guess the murderer was a dismal disaster! Can you guess the murderer correctly on your visit?

Don’t miss this opportunity to support local community theatre and enjoy a well-crafted, entertaining murder mystery. ‘Shadows Of The Past‘ runs for only two weekends, so be sure to catch it while you can with session times as follows:-
– 19th May 2:30pm
– 25th May 7:30pm
– 26th May 2:30pm

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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Barracking For The Umpire – A Profound Blend of AFL and Family Drama

Barracking For The Umpire

Barracking For The Umpire Rating

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Barracking For The Umpire, presented by the Black Swan State Theatre Company, will strike a chord with every AFL fan, player, and parent. In this quintessentially Australian family drama, we’re drawn into the lives of the Williams family, posing the poignant question: what sacrifices are we prepared to make for the love of the game?

Doug Williams, celebrated as Donnybrook’s greatest footballer, is the embodiment of resilience—tough and steadfast. His loyal wife, Delveen, has stood by him through countless challenges, witnessing each impact of the game on him. As the local club prepares to present Doug with a lifetime achievement award, their children return home to celebrate. Yet, as the festivities unfold, the once reliable hands of this legendary player ominously begin to falter.

On entering the theatre, the stage transports us to Donnybrook, specifically the Williams’ family living room steeped in 1980s decor—a decade that marked the peak of Doug’s illustrious football career. The space is authentically adorned with a well-stocked bar, doorways that hint at a bustling household, and walls lined with family photos that speak volumes of shared memories. A coffee table, cozy blankets draped over a well-worn couch, and a back-wall display case cum bookshelf contribute to the room’s lived-in feel, wrapping the audience in the comforting embrace of a family home.

The production superbly uses lighting(Lucy Brikinshaw) and video effects(Michael Carmody) to facilitate smooth transitions from the family living room to the football locker room—a sacred space residing solely in Doug’s memories. As the spotlight dims on these ephemeral glimpses into the past, the stage’s ambient sounds and lighting subtly recede, reorienting the audience to the present moment where Doug, though momentarily disoriented, is prompted back into the present by a worried family member.

The cast expertly brings the characters to life, making them authentic and believable.

Ben (played by Ian Wilkes), a Noongar man, is a current-day AFL footballer dealing with all the pressures that his high profile brings and harbouring a deep secret that he never wishes to become public. Ben, away from the pressure of AFL footy, is a relaxed and laid-back character who wants to play footy and toys with the idea of revealing his secret to the family. Some family members wonder why he is single, although hints of a relationship occur. Some of his stage exits and entrances show a worried Ben trying to find out about the health of a recently concussed teammate.

Mena (played by Ebony McGuire) is a journalist who wants to make her mark in the world but chafes in the shadows of her father and brother Ben’s football careers. She is interested in telling a story to make her way up the journalistic ladder, but possibly at the expense of her brother’s wishes. One scene, in particular, highlights the dog with a bone journalist in her as she interrogates her brother about the need for a particular story to be told.

Charaine (played by Jo Morris) is the stabilising influence amongst the three siblings. However, her own life is going through a rocky patch with her recent breakup with her boyfriend. Her calm demeanour quickly changes whenever her ex-boyfriend enters the scene, as her Mother has mortifyingly invited him to visit after a family dinner. This leads to some comedic hijinks that work well to balance out the drama of the relationship.

Tom (played by Michale Abercromby) is an MC and Charaine’s recent ex-boyfriend who worships Doug and Ben, vicariously living through their football deeds, making the men somewhat uncomfortable. His devotion to the family footballers creates friction in his relationship with Charaine, which he strives to repair. Tom also brings some lighthearted comedic moments at awkward moments that relieve the tension of the family dramas at play.

Doug (played by Steve Le Marquand) skillfully plays the family patriarch, but he unfortunately experiences increasingly recurring episodes from his declining health. A famed local footballer in his day, he is highly respected by the family and community alike. When surrounded by his family, he is quick to exchange friendly barbs and banter as well as anyone else, but when left alone, he becomes lost in his surroundings.

The Coach (played by Joel Jackson) also doubles as Eckhart, an AFL football player and Ben’s teammate. These two open the play with an energetic start, as the opening tune of Up There Cazaly fades to the background, being in the locker rooms post-game and bantering about life and their just completed match. Joel spends most of the play existing as the personification of the Coach, who only exists in the recesses of Doug’s fading memory. His entrance onto the stage signifies moments where Doug loses his grip on current-day reality and relives some of the traumatic moments of his football career.

Football fans will delight in numerous lines delivered by the inspirational coach, no doubt causing them to reflect on their football careers no matter how humble. Football afficionadoes will recognise many famous football quotes that have gone into folklore, including John Kennedy Senior’s immortal lines: “Do Something. Don’t think. Don’t hope. Do.”

Costumes designed by Sara Chirichilli have been selected with great care and attention. The Coach’s costume channels Tom Hafey’s iconic style, complete with a snug Adidas T-shirt and classic short shorts, perfectly capturing the aura of 1980s football. In the opening scene, the footballers Eckhart and Ben sport authentic football guernseys that set the stage for the action. The rest of the cast’s wardrobe is thoughtfully chosen to reflect a casual, comfortable attire that one might find in any relaxed family setting. This naturalistic approach complements the home’s 1980s vibe, seamlessly integrating the characters with their environment.

Andrea Gibbs’ debut play is a beautifully crafted story that feels quintessentially Australian. With its rich themes and relatable characters, ‘Barracking for the Umpire’ is set to become a favourite among theatres across Australia for many years to come.

Director Clare Watson has selected a winning team with this cast and crew, who have all kicked winning goals here. Together, their efforts successfully showcase what is destined to be a classic Australian play. I rate this play five stars out of Five, and I highly recommend you see it while you have the chance. Don’t think—do see this show.

Barracking For The Umpire is playing at the Subiaco Arts Centre from 23rd April to 5th May. After that, the cast and crew will take this play on tour across Western Australia to the following locations and dates:-

Port Hedland – 11th May
Broome – 18th May
Karratha – 23rd & 24th May
Geraldton – 29th May
Mandurah – 1st June
Margaret River – 15th June
Albany – 6th & 7th June
Esperance – 12th June

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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A Playful Parody – Potted Potter Returns to The Seymour Centre

A Playful Parody – Potted Potter Returns to The Seymour Centre

Potted Potter Rating

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What began as a skit in 2005 to entertain people lining up to buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a London bookstore has become Potted Potter, a smash hit sell-out show all around the world. This modest five-minute skit grew to incorporate the first six books in a one-hour show in 2006. Creators Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner expanded their show in 2007 to include JK Rowling’s seventh book, which is where the magic lies in this current form.

It’s easy to see how Potted Potter has outlasted other parodies over the last 17 years. The formula is simple – make your audience laugh! And laugh we did for almost all of the 70-minute performance. There were audience members of all ages, from kids dressed up in their favourite Hogwarts house uniform as others donned witch’s pointy black hats to parents and the older generation attendees. At times, it was similar to a kid-friendly ‘clean’ stand-up comedy set, complete with a lot of audience participation and laughs. One part I shan’t spoil had the audience involved in a group game.

The script was deceptively clever, delivered in a rapid conversation between the two characters, Brendan and Scott. Despite the fast narration, there were no fumbles or tripping over the quick-witted lines. Paired with comedic physicality and perfect timing, the character’s expressions sometimes gave away their surprise when interacting, hinting at some smart stage improvisation. This appeared to keep the script fresh and was delivered so well that it was hard to tell whether it was improv or really good acting. Either way, it worked. They cleverly wove in lines that were particularly Australian too, at one time referring to the ‘bin chicken’, which made everyone laugh.

The set design by Simon Scullion was purposely basic, which didn’t place them at Hogwarts; rather, it added to the charm of a parody. The same was true for the costumes and props used. It was like Turner and Clarkson raided their dress-up and toy box at home and used what they had, such as a stuffed snake and various wigs. Rather than detract from the performance, they added a comfortable charm and a good spice of fun to the Potted Potter experience.

Composer Phil Innes created an air of Harry Potter expectation as the audience was being seated. The music as each book tale begins is cute in the repetition.

The performance also featured some magic, as expected from a book about this topic, as well as a hilarious musical duet complete with a dance break between the two characters to close the show. One of my favourite lines delivered by a ridiculously dressed character was, ” Look it up in the book of cool.”

This quirky performance of Potted Potter will appeal to people of all ages if you expect a lighthearted and quick tour through the seven books’ plot points.

Do you need to have read all seven books to enjoy this performance? No, not at all. It certainly referred to certain things that people who love the Harry Potter series would quickly understand; however, those who hadn’t read all the books gained an understanding of what was going on easily. The characters were all there, in fine form, represented by the two actors.

Potter Potter An Unauthorised Harry Experience is playing at The Seymour Centre, Sydney, from 12 – 21 April and will tour Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth throughout May.

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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French Film Festival – The Book Of Solutions

French Film Festival - The Book Of Solutions

The Book of Solutions is a quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes confusing comedy-drama from writer-director Michel Gondry, who is best known outside of France for directing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The story centres on Marc, a paranoid filmmaker with a narcissistic personality and an incredibly creative but highly distractible mind, which borders on the pathological. To prevent the studio from shutting his film down, he and his crew steal the footage and retreat to Marc’s aunt’s house in the country to finish it.

Marc spends most of his time there, avoiding watching his film whilst restlessly pursuing whatever idea takes hold of his mind at the moment. These pursuits range from being elected mayor of the rural town to filming an ant for three days to creating a soundtrack for his film by gracelessly conducting the orchestra himself with a series of bizarre body and hand gestures. The orchestra scene was a particular favourite, and I enjoyed the idea that someone clueless could make something special happen through their unwavering belief in themselves.

Marc’s pompous narration throughout is also very funny, with a favourite line coming after his triumphant booking of Sting (who works on his soundtrack): ‘Some victories are so spectacular they don’t need a voiceover’.

Over the course of the movie, his increasingly erratic mood and behaviour begin to alienate his crew, worry his elderly aunt, and lead to him being unable to tell facts from fiction in real life. His strangely obsessive thoughts result in him writing ‘The Book of Solutions’, which is supposed to provide the answers to any conflict from the local to the global. All of the ideas in the book are based on his own highly skewed (and often contradictory) perception of the world as he tries to finish his film while his mind simultaneously unravels.

Although Marc’s childlike ability to lose himself in whatever captures his attention at the moment is a beautiful illustration of the power of being totally present, I personally found the film lacked a satisfying story. Like Marc, the film jumps from one thing to the next without any real connectivity or explanation, although it’s an enjoyable journey nonetheless.

Perhaps this lack of a traditional storyline can be chalked up to the fact that it is, after all, a French film and the French have a far more existential relationship with story and filmmaking than Hollywood does. Or perhaps it’s because the film represents a confusing window into the internal struggle of an unsound but sometimes brilliant mind.

Regardless, it’s as darkly humorous and provocative as one might expect a French film to be and is certainly worth watching, even if you’re new to French cinema.

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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