Presented by Midnite Youth Theatre Company at Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
Do you believe in miracles? I recently had the luxury of witnessing one at the State Theatre Centre in Western Australia. Not long ago, a friend suggested that we snap up our tickets for the closing night of Cloudstreet, a local production with tickets selling fast. Adapted by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo, the play is a powerful stage adaptation of Tim Winton’s acclaimed 1991 novel. As noted by director Gregory Jones, it delves into the themes of “spirituality, inclusion, community and a sense of belonging.” Cloudstreet hits particularly close to home, proving to be one of the most successful works of Western Australian drama.
Setting foot into the theatre, I had a good impression but little did I know, I was in for a truly spectacular evening of local theatre. I spotted the logo of The Midnite Youth Theatre Company (founded by Christ Church Grammar School), which alluded to the specific age group of the cast, although I hadn’t quite pieced it together yet. The stage was vague and vacant, with multiple stage entrances and exits to the left and right. (A music choice fitting to the mood, James Vincent McMorrow was played prior to and after intermission.) I didn’t have a clue of what was in store for us all.
Taking place in Western Australia’s very own Shenton Park, Cloudstreet follows the two-decadal long collision (1942–1962) of a pair of distinct families: the Pickles and the Lambs. The Pickles and the Lambs find themselves inhabiting One Cloud Street, a house of mystifying enormity and a haunted history. The result is a tale of middle class (or should I say, ‘terribly bourgeois’) proportions, sure to warm your soul. It also sheds light upon the tribulations and complexities of growing up, with a twist.
“It was evident each cast member had placed amazing devotion to their roles and characterization, on top of their innate talent.”
Studio Underground transpired to be a winning site for stage action. The stage set-up entailed cast members bringing in props themselves for their designated scenes. Beds, tables, and even a boat participated in the ever-changing set. It undeniably took after the changing nature of both families’ lives and relations without sacrificing its authenticity. Massive props to Patrick Howe for ditching the norms of immobile set design, thereon adding to the dynamics of the play.
To say the cast demonstrated professionalism in their acting would be an understatement. I particularly enjoyed the main characters’ performances; Fish Lamb (Kael McGrechan) maintaining insurmountable focus, the unmistakable charm of Rose Pickles (Maggie MacEvilly), Dolly Pickles’ (Cassidy Dunn) extensive range of emotion, the flexibility of the motherly Red Lamb (Eleanor Rowe), a nurturing Lester Lamb (Nicholas Warrand) in all his right, and so forth – though not to say at the expense of the others. In clear alliance with one another, every one of the actors was an asset to the fulfilment of their respective roles.
The amount of physical theatre involved in the production was incredible, and it was executed in seamless fashion. Successive scenes carried on, which left no room for doubt. A surreal instance featured a deceivingly blank screen backdrop which lit up allowing silhouettes to be cast in accordance to the narration of the Black Man. To the balcony of stage left, Nowar Koning accompanied specific scenes on keyboard. In that aspect, the play lent itself to its darker side.
Amongst the many great attributes of The Midnite Youth Theatre Company’s rendition of Cloudstreet, one that stood out to me was the exuberant energy the cast displayed. To my astonishment, it was comprised of a team of youths. Extraordinary youths, at that. It was evident each cast member had placed amazing devotion to their roles and characterization, on top of their innate talent. Another was audience interaction. Have you ever been to a play where the cast handed out complimentary ice cream?
Though Cloudstreet’s acts were fitted in three installments, I’d wanted nothing more than to stay riveted to my seat and fixated in the enthrallment offered. Over the onset of mischievous antics and heart-warming moments, you age and empathise with the characters. Not to mention the steady ripple of laughs they supplied throughout the entirety of the play. The moderation of light-heartedness contrasted with tragedy was of my own appreciation. Overwhelmed with its verisimilitude, I caught myself on cloud nine as the play drew to an end.
Overall the cast was brilliant, as well as those behind-the-scenes. Both witty and moving, Cloudstreet panned out to be a performance of high and endless praise – one of the most charming plays I’ve had the pleasure of viewing.
Additional thanks to:
Midnite Youth Theatre Company
Costume Designer – Jay Waugh
Lighting Designer – Tess Reuvers
Photography courtesy of Gregory Jones.