Erik Strauts, director, has brought melodrama back in spectacular fashion with Love Rides The Rails, a hilarious and wildly entertaining play set in the fictionalised Adelaide Hills of the 1890s.
The “Blackwood, Belair and Bridgewater Railroad” is under threat of closure as the dastardly bank owner Simon Darkway (Damien White) begins an evil plot. He plans to take over the BB&B Railroad, take the lovely Prudence Hopewell (Rosie Williams) as his wife, and will stop at nothing to get his way. Only the dashing hero, Truman Pendennis (Jarrod Chave), can thwart the plan and secure the Railroad.
Love Rides the Rails takes us back to the good old ‘Gay 90s’ and presents a style of performance we don’t see very often today. Utilising brightly coloured backdrops, common props and some incredibly overdramatic acting, this play reminds us that sometimes a bit (or a lot) of silliness works. A group of singers (Michelle Maclean, Vicki Barrett, Gill Ludlam, Koah Spain, Kathy Strauts, Lauren Bannard, Chris Lewin, James Clay) fill the gaps between set changes with some old-timey tunes, adding another layer to the show and upping the audience’s excitement.
The stars of the show are, of course, the wicked villain and the debonair hero. Damien White plays an incredible bad guy, complete with a moustache that just screams ‘evil’ (though it could be a little curlier at the ends for some added menace). His physicality on set, the way he swishes that dark cape, is absolutely fantastic, and his maniacal laugh is perfect. Jarrod Chave projects brilliantly, making good use of a strong voice and good-guy charm. Other special mentions should go to Rosie Williams as Prudence, Kay Kelly Lindbergs as the loveable Mrs Hopewell, James Barbary as Dirk Sneath and Anita Canala as Carlotta Cortez.
As the play is a melodrama you should expect some over-the-top acting. I wouldn’t change a thing though, as the majority of laughs came from these moments. The audience absolutely loved the fisticuffs scenes and the ridiculous accents.
Although there were quite a few mistakes they were played off well and only served to make the performance even more entertaining. You end up not knowing what is planned, what is a break of the fourth wall, or what is a genuine mistake, and I say that in the most positive way possible. Love Rides the Rails ends up being a natural and playful piece that would have suffered if it weren’t for these instances. I also applaud whoever came up with the gags in this performance, as I’ve never laughed harder at such ridiculous bits.
Allowing the audience to interact (by booing, hissing, singing and cheering) is a bold move, one that could easily lead to heckling or distraction. The risk pays off though, as these bits of interaction only heighten enjoyment for the audience, making the performance feel a lot more intimate and friendly. An atmosphere of almost childish fun, mixed with quite adult insinuations, makes Love Rides the Rails an incredibly enjoyable experience. It is a play that will definitely brighten your night.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Blackwood Memorial Hall, 21 Coromandel Avenue, Blackwood
Season: 15 – 30 November
Duration: 2 hours with intermission
Tickets: $15.00 – $20.00
Bookings: Book through the Blackwood Players’ website
Photo source: Blackwood Players Facebook page