UNDA Theatre Society is the new player in the competitive world of University Drama Societies. Based at the University of Notre Dame Sydney they have entered a prestigious field, some of the best shows I see are from socs or the alumni of socs. So it is a real pleasure to report that UNDA have nailed their landing with this inaugural production.
OCTOBER by Tim Wilding introduces us to Tim and Angela, a well-to-do couple, he an airline pilot and she an interior designer. Suddenly their world is plunged into paranoia and fear as Dez visits their lovely home. Dez says he is a friend, and more, of Angela who denies knowing him. After being thrown out, Dez might be harassing the couple. Confused and confusing they seek help from a worrying private detective, Dick, who was inexplicably referred to them as being the man to make things happen.
This play is listed in the HSC Drama syllabus and is a popular choice because of its absurdity and very dark humour. It needs a light touch though and this production has that in spades. Director Vicki Apostolopoulos has begun by giving the play the bedrock it needs to relax audiences into the show with overt normalcy. The set is detailed and a good representation of middle class aspiration, there is smooth and soothing jazz as preshow music and lovely turquoise lighting from the back.
That reality is exploded later but Apostolopoulos has taken a reality based approach to the first scene. It can be viewed as simply narrative. This is very successful and highlights the silliness and black laughs to come when the detective arrives. She also uses freezes and silent interludes and open scene changes to gradually move the show away from storytelling.
She has a good cast to work with. Sophie Finney plays Angela, Luka Bozic is Tim and Bryce Lavery-Jacko is Dez. Finney gives Angela almost a dual personality where she can be quite manipulating and dishonest on occasion while appearing to be a supportive and worried wife. Quite sneaky and creepy at times, she wants us to see her as the voice of reason and this duality is put across very well.
Bozic is a quieter Tim and, opening night nerves aside, his reserve and laying back enhances the end of the play when the resolution is really in his hands. But he does have some very quick retort lines which he handles very well and within the character. Lavery-Jacko gives Dez the required inscrutability, confusion and deviousness and his is the first laugh of the night which he wears with aplomb.
The laughs fully arrive with the entry of Kathryn Thomas as Dick. This character has most of the burden of the absurdity of the work and Thomas does a cracker job. She is really funny and particularly good at bringing the more nudge-nudge lines out to play. Her monologue is especially well delivered with good storytelling and a variety of pace. It’s a terrific performance all round and greatly appreciated by the audience, me included. Great fun from an emergent artist with charisma and talent.
One other aspect I really enjoyed about OCTOBER was Apostolopoulos’ blocking. She moves her fine cast around without fussiness, movement is character based and enough to avoid any stasis but she really excels in the subtle use of stillness towards the end of the piece. Here, the characters for the first time just sit and speak and the play travels back to the real life feel of the first scene. Very effective.
Unfortunately this solid, well-rehearsed, thoroughly entertaining production is sold out but I look forward to UNDA Theatre Society’s next production.
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