Theatre Review: How Not To Make It In America

This is a tour de force of a performance of a tour de force of a play


Presented by Theatre Republic in association with Adelaide Festival Centre

Reviewed 17 November 2021

You step into the theatre and the strains of The Avalanche’s Since I Left You leave you in no doubt that the time this work is set in is 2001. From the moment James Smith steps out of the darkness, transforms into the character of Matt, puts on the wings (you have to see it to understand) the day to day world of Adelaide disappears and you are transported to New York a few days before the devastation of The World Trade Centre, and the beginning of Matt’s journey as a young actor trying to follow his dreams in New York City.

Smith is a chameleon; he slips from character to character with such ease you can’t see the joins. His deft and lightning changes leave you suspended as the landscape of New York unfolds with the story of Matt’s unflinching desire to make it in The Big Apple. Every character and street is brought to life by the worlds that Smith creates with the magical story that has fallen from the pen of Emily Steel. He is male, female, high, depressed, homesick, jubilant and all without any hint there might be work involved – now that’s talent. We have such an enormous pool of talent in Adelaide and the work of Smith and Steel gels seamlessly under the genius guidance of Cory McMahon to give us yet another sensational piece of work from Theatre Republic.

Steel has proved over the last few years that she is in touch with the reality of our times and her writing is lucid dreaming that gives her actors the scope to deliver the whole world she creates. With her vivid and delicious memory play based on her observations and her own experiences as a young actor in NYC, Smith gives us an hour of highs and lows that are unforgettable. A large majority of the people on the planet would like to be a famous actor; Smith and Steel give us inside information on just how hard and costly the journey can be and how unpredictable the world is.

Meg Wilson’s design is a blank canvas for Smith to turn into a video store, a grungy shared apartment, a street corner or a Manhattan apartment and Chris Petridis makes full use of the space filling it with fractured images and lighting mayhem that add great affect to the story. Jason Sweeny’s music is a perfect platform for the movement of the text and at times shakes us to the core with its effect and primal accuracy and he has designed a soundscape that is challenging and accurate. The injection of state Government funds is put to great use and the sponsors both business and personal have added to the richness of the creative arts again, thank you. It is also great to see the ongoing support and encouragement of the Adelaide Festival Centre reap such rich benefits.

I have to stop with the superlatives already, sorry I spent a bit of time in New York too, but this is a collaboration between Smith, Steel and McMahon and a production team who know exactly what they are doing. Theatre Republic should become a must see in your theatre diaries. I have to say it – This is a tour de force of a performance of a tour de force of a play – If you don’t see any other theatre this year don’t miss this show. There just aren’t enough superlatives to explain how uplifting it is to see a brilliant actor use the gift of brilliant writing guided by a brilliant director supported by a brilliant production team. Go see it and take all of your friends.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Stars out of 5: 5 brilliant stars (there aren’t enough stars in the universe to cover how much this show is worth)

Venue: Space Theatre

Season: 17th to 21st November 2021

Duration: 1 hour

Tickets: $48.00 Conc: $38.00 Under 30 $30.00

A one off service and handling fee of $8.95 applies per transaction; this is regardless of the number or value of items purchased.

Bookings: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=AMERICAN21

Photo Credit: Thomas McCammon

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