Presented by: Flinders University Drama Centre
In 2020 a review panel handed down a report that basically put the Flinders University Drama Department on the road to closure. It saw no intake for the following academic year and left the honours degree course in doubt for its future. There was a massive outpouring of condemnation and regret for a report that saw no value in what had become one of the leading university drama courses in Australia with a global reputation that had endured for years and turned out some iconic Australian performers. Today I bore witness to the ongoing need to fund and develop courses that encourage and develop fresh, new creative artists that will ensure our industry endures. Dr Christopher Hurrell has worked tirelessly since his appointment as Manager of Flinders Drama Centre with his talented and dedicated staff and this year sees the introduction of a Bachelor of Performance (Acting) along with a Bachelor of Performance (Directing) and a Bachelor of Performance (Theatre making). So after a hiccup in the flow, Flinders now has a stand-alone acting course on offer that will continue to populate the global theatre scene with talented creatives.
This year’s graduates have written their own performance pieces and, with the help of director Anthony Nicola, they have produced an hour and a half of contemporary theatre that would grace any professional stage. The writing is overall exceptional and has been treated with deserved reverence by the production team.
Shant Becker wrote Fish and H, both sharply comic and refreshingly inventive. Tayla Cecere, clad in figure hugging leather confessed to her addiction to Romcoms as a cure for her broken heart and a solution for her loneliness in New Romantics… clever staging and very good use of mixed media. Luke Furlan wrote Used (Like New) and took us down the rabbit hole of buying something advertised on social media. His clever development of plot made for some very interesting twists and turns.
Lauren Jones’ plaintive exploration of the desire to be brilliant and the results of being mediocre as a student of ballet and how that governed how she developed in 90 Degrees is funny, warm and often heartbreaking to experience. She also wrote The Bottom Line and shared the stage, well, stage and screen, with Tayla Cecere. An interesting and engaging look at empathy.
Connor Pullinger opened the showcase with expertly crafted The Boy From Oz. If you ever want to know what a friend of Dorothy should really look like, get Connor to perform this heartwarming and often heartbreaking exploration of coming out. Then perhaps he should restage Upper Cuts. Funny, honest and perhaps a cut above the rest (you had to be there).
Covid continues to disrupt our lives and there have been a couple of cases that kept performers at home. Fortunately the pieces have been recorded so we got to see Em Ritson’s Chicken. Sharp writing and some artful editing made this exploration of sexual identity a very engaging look on screen at how we cope with being different.
Tom Spiby’s The Family Curse was a detailed dive into the mind of the musician. On a normal day in a musician’s life, the soundtrack is always present; then at times when inspiration hits you the noise is deafening and you just have to put the track down. The right memory can produce the perfect song. The final composition for Grandad was just right. I wonder if it’s different every performance? It felt like it should be. Isabella Vassallo’s writing is as transparent and provocative as her performance. This woman can hold your attention and the obsession in The L Word became palpable.
Luke Wiltshire wrote two pieces. As It Is In Heaven I found it to be lively and engaging. An amusing look at belief and its comparison to his dislike of olives. At times very funny, and the writing was a clear and at times brutal exploration of what it is to be trans. It was deft, incisive writing which at times took your breath away. Then there was Amour! This was a very funny and accessible work about a boy’s need to experience his first kiss. It was very funny and very well written.
Franca Lafosse wrote Home Goal which rounded out the works presented in this exciting showcase. The 2023 graduate ensemble took to the air (metaphorically) whilst Franca took a trip back to her country of origin. Yes, the piece was set on a plane as Franca travelled back to her country of birth surrounded by World Cup fans. A very clever exploration of the idea of home with some very snappy vocal and physical work from the ensemble.
Every showcase puts new talent into the world of creative artists and demands they have talent to showcase. It’s not every day the talent is able to write, develop and create its own material. This graduate year is ready to enter the industry at a professional level and if the offers of work aren’t immediately forthcoming they are very ably equipped to write their own material. Flinders is back on the map. Keep watching as they grow and develop into the next stage of their continuing professional development of creative artists.
Reviewed by Adrian Barnes
Photo credit: supplied