‘Melon’ was written by ex-Curtin University student, Ella Randle. Ella started writing intricate plays as a teenager when most of her friends were still Bluey fans; now several years later the quality just gets better and better. Ella’s elaborate and cognisant scripts are far in advance of her years. This play is aimed at a 15+ audience as it discusses several dark topics that are very relevant in today’s society.
Melon is the final performance in Shelby McKenzie’s Honours degree. This presentation is the culmination of Shelby’s BPA Honours research topic which is on the Conditions of Performer Embodiment in live performance.
This stunning, 35-minute performance can be seen in Rehearsal Studio 1, at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), 2 Bradford Street in Mount Lawley on Friday the 30th of September and Saturday 1st of October with curtain up at 7.00 pm.
The scene: 2022. A downmarket rental house somewhere in Perth.
The Set: The audience is seated at floor level, in a semicircle around the stage. A two-seater, fawn suede settee has a dark wood coffee table with a built-in bookshelf placed in front.
Props and set: Jane Tero. The plain black drapes allow the actor to be the centre of attention.
Stage manager: Natasha Weir.
Lighting designer: Jasmine Valentini has used the lighting level to emphasise the mood, coupled with clever use of the lighting colour for the Technicolour dream sequence.
Lighting operator: Rae Anderson.
Soundscape: Natasha Weir.
Costumes: Jane Tero has selected shades of beige to allow the importance of the script and presentation not to be distracted by colourful clothing. Shelby was wearing an open chequered shirt, over a Harley Davidson T-shirt and beige jeans.
A young woman is sitting anxiously and practically in tears, in her dimly lit sitting room. She makes a ‘phone call. ‘That woman is at the window again!’ They stare at each other through the glass.
The young woman explains that her decade-long, best school friend Abby had died about a year ago. Abby had been a beautiful girl but thanks to living with a chauvinistic manipulator, Abby had become a hollow husk of a being. The old woman outside the window is Abby’s – now alcoholic – heartbroken mother.
In her flawless monologue, Shelby takes on the parts of the four characters – mother, girl, Abby and her disastrous partner. This extraordinarily talented actor has, with the sensitive guidance of director Amber Gilmour, created four vastly different and richly observed personalities. She has given each unique enunciation, speech phrasing and delivery. Then added their mannerisms, quirky twitches and subtle facial expressions are all incorporated.
In the play, we were taken into long passages where all four characters would be in conversation together and yet fearlessly Shelby switched impeccably from one person to the next. If the audience had closed their eyes, one would believe that there were four different people in the room.
Shelby has been guided and mentored with skill and genuine care by Tom Heath and Renée Newman.
It is so reassuring to see such talented actors in Perth coming to the fore and getting a chance to prove themselves.