I feel a great fear when I read “immersive” in the description of a theatre piece but I took a chance on Wendy House. Café by day, Fringe venue by night, the second story room of Salad Days Inc. was an ideal venue for this show: the walls were covered in desperate, graffiti messages and the windows boarded over. The tiny audience crowds into a corner, sitting cautiously on couches and crates to watch the tense plot unfold.
The characters were cardboard cut-outs, like those you would find in a comic store, except these were not heroes, plucked straight from Clichés-R-Us: a dumb, sheltered blonde with more money than sense; a lecherous thug with a poor, unhappy childhood; two country boys trying to cut out an existence in the city.
The dialogue scrambled to give these characters some semblance of life but never quite achieved its aims, leaving a dissatisfied taste of ‘almost’. There were continual flashes of realistic, well-written characters behind the blank, overacted masks but on the whole Wendy House cast flopped in front of the challenge. The possible exception was the girl who played the androgynous ‘Peter’. Her voice had wonderful range and tone, yet her face seemed caught in the same bewildered, anxious expression for the entire play.
Wendy House translated more as a scene from a bad and frankly unoriginal young adult novel than a dystopian discussion of society and “our fears that we are unable to grow up to face the world we are living in”. Indeed, the play barely even touches on this apparently integral theme with any great depth, instead just vaguely referencing Peter Pan, J.M Barrie’s dark children’s tale of the ultimate boy who would never grow up. It was an element that had the potential to make Wendy House an intelligent and thought-provoking piece but instead was raised briefly to tantalise the audience and then dropped.
Reviewed by Emily Francine Palmer
Venue: Salad Days Inc., Gilbert Place, Adelaide
Season: 4 – 8 March 2014
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $15.00 – $20.00
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or phone 1300 621 255
Photo Credit: Pixel Theatre
Disclosure: Emily has been employed as a ticketing officer at the Garden of Unearthly Delights.