It was 1916 and thousands of men were sent to slaughter at Fromelle for absolutely no good reason. There was never going to be a happy ending.
That said there is a great deal of charm about this work-in-progress production. The naivety of the raw recruits, the brusqueness of the old campaigners, the Aussie humour, the camaraderie and the love stories keep this story from wallowing in the misery that these people experienced.
Lane Hinchcliffe’s music is quite lovely and beautifully directed by Matthew Carey, leading a small band of talented and empathetic musicians. Although generally very clever and often witty, I found some of the lyrics to be tending towards the melodramatic in the more deeply felt songs.
Director Andy Packer has done an amazing job. His cast only had a week of rehearsal. I really enjoyed the workshop feel of the production, scripts and all, and having everyone including the musicians on stage. It made the show feel more intimate and the actors more accessible.
The actors were uniformly excellent, but Martin Crewes’ leadership as Frank, Catherine Campbell’s dry humour as the Matron, Michael Whalley’s laid back charm as Keith from Keith and Nicholas Winter’s incredibly cute and touchingly sad portrayal of under-age recruit Willie stood out for me.
The music is lovely, the singing is beautiful and the story, although incredibly sad, has a nice symmetry to it and a glimmer of hope to hang on to as you leave. It is obviously a labour of love for all involved. Once they get The Front into full production I am sure it will be a 5 star show.
Reviewed by Sue Oldknow
Rating (out of 5): 4 stars
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season: One performance only