Just Like the Movies is an interesting show. It certainly stays with you, in that it’s one of those works of theatre about which you can’t quite make up your mind. From beginning to end, it’s a work filled with immense talent and which is certainly worthy of admiration for its sheer artistic cleverness. Yet, somehow it still fails to amaze.
Just Like the Movies is a sweet, lyrical tale about a girl’s travels across the United States in search of love, excitement and the kind of adventures you see in the movies. The text is beautifully written, a poetic monologue made of gracefully flowing verse that dips in and out of rhyme. Matthew Gregan provides tone-setting accompaniment on guitar, the cool, bluesy tunes often dancing with the words in charming rhythm.
Actress and writer Josephine Were is an exceptional performer. Her ability to memorise and so faultlessly deliver the text is thoroughly impressive, and she easily rises to the challenge of being the only actor on stage. Her delivery is sometimes a little too fast, or a tad too soft, but never for long or so much so that you lose track of the story.
For a show with just one actor, a bare stage and a suitcase as the only prop, Just Like the Movies achieves no mean feat in sustaining the attention that it does. However, it doesn’t quite sustain it enough. The production fails to be truly engrossing. It isn’t so compelling that you’ll never feel the urge – or the desire – to sneakily glance at your watch.
Any story that focuses on just one character so closely, for its entirety, depends on a likeable (or at least sympathetic) protagonist. Otherwise, it starts to feel vaguely like being trapped in a room with someone you’d prefer to avoid. Frankly, Were’s unnamed narrator is annoying – her naivety is more grating than endearing, her choices often immaturely foolish. Not caring enough about the heroine makes it difficult to really become engrossed in the story.
Between the skilful writing, Were’s outstanding performance and Gregan’s smooth guitar playing, this production has a lot going for it. Yet, it’s also somehow lacking. Had the duration been more than 45 minutes, it would have been too long.
I liked Just Like the Movies, but I wanted to love it.
Venue: Paper String Plastic, 99A Hindley St, Adelaide.
Season: 25 February – 16 March 2012.
Tickets: $10 – $18.
Duration: 45 minutes.
Bookings: Fringetix via 1300 FRINGE, outlets or online.