Thursday, 12 March 2015

Young & Jackson, Wed 12 March 2015 ***

By Don Reid 
fortyfivedownstairs until 22 March 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Wed 12 March 2015 
Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri 13 March and later in print. KH

Jacob Machin, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Charlie Cousins 
 Sitting at old-fashioned tables in fortyfivedownstairs while peering up at the sensual, famously nude portrait of Chloe transports us back to Young and Jackson’s pub in 1940s Melbourne.

Young, raw, Navy recruits, Keith (Charlie Cousins) and his mate, Jimmy (Jacob Machin), book a room at Y & J’s where they chase girls and rehearse their racy comedy act for a Navy Concert Party.

Don Reid’s play, Young and Jackson, contrasts Jimmy and Keith’s fanciful view of war as a great adventure, with the grim experiences of their shared love interest, Lorna (Gabrielle Scawthorn), and Keith’s war-traumatised friend, Les (Sam Duncan).

Reid’s script is gently entertaining, albeit predictable with a rather contrived ending but, with Wayne Harrison’s direction, it effectively conjures the war period with 1940s music, clothing and quirky, Aussie and Navy slang.

The flexible, in-the-round performing space (design by Dann Barber, Michael Hill) merges with the audience seating, allowing actors to move amongst the tables to get close up and personal with the crowd.

Although Reid’s dialogue captures the tone and the period, it is sometimes over-written and, although the four performances are competent, the actors’ timing and delivery are sometimes slow or laboured.

Jimmy, Keith and Lorna sometimes sound a little too well spoken for the working class kids that they portray and any rounded or modern vowels sound misplaced with the Aussie slang.

Jimmy and Keith’s saucy Vaudevillian skits and drag acts need more punch, confidence and tighter cueing to heighten the slapstick humour and to provide some dynamic range for the production.

Lorna’s motivations are cryptic and her behaviour erratic, making her a difficult character for Scawthorn to play with truth.

The first piercing dramatic moment comes 45 minutes into the play with Les’s tremulous recollection of his ugly war with the Japanese “Up North”.

These two lads face the great unknown rather than the great adventure and the company takes us on a journey back in time.

By Kate Herbert

 Sam Duncan, Jacob Machin, Gabrielle Scawthorn

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