‘Playthings’ is a superbly structured and finely written, semi-autobiographical play by Scott McArdle. Scott, who is still in his mid-twenties, first came to my notice six years ago when he was a Murdoch theatre student. He started writing and producing plays when most other students were still trying to find the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue. His talent was instantly noticeable. Although this is already his seventeenth play, he does not simply churn them out but considers every word of dialogue, producing intricate and clever stories.
This moving show is presented by the award-winning Second Chance Theatre under the eye of their producer Erin Lockyer; it can be seen at The Blue Room Studio Theatre, 65 James Street in Northbridge. The 85-minute performances are at 7.00 pm each evening until 23rd November.
The scene: a rural town in WA in 2010.
The set: is another Sara Chirichilli masterpiece; it is an old fibreboard house – with the front wall cut away to reveal the house interior. The porch has a flyscreen door with cat flap. The roof is terracotta corrugated tin. A ladder against the wall leads up to the roof top. The kitchen has a sink unit, fridge and microwave, with pine table and chairs. The lounge – which acted dual purpose, covering two houses simultaneously – had a couch, TV, stand lamp and sound system. The striking set was solidly built by Andrew David and John King. Sara and stage manager Georgia Smith a have created a genuine ‘live-in’ set with all the minor details often only found in major productions or the sets of TV programmes.
Sound designer and electronic music composer was Rebecca Riggs-Bennett, mentored by Rachael Dease, Rebecca has captured the skill of subtlety. Her music was at times almost imperceptible, but still just enough to raise or emphasise the mood.
At times, the room lighting (designer Scott McArdle) was dimmed and a drape behind the translucent rear wall of the kitchen and sitting room was drawn back, allowing the wall to be lit from behind by a video projector. Video designer George Ashforth produced a selection of video clips, including an SMS conversation and various other effects, some which brought a smile.
Arnold (Dan Buckle) is a shy thirteen-year-old who has had trauma in his life. He is walking home from school when a stroppy, loud mouthed girl, Lucy (Courtney Henri) in his class comes up to him offering to show Arnold a dying kangaroo that she had found lying on the road.
It becomes obvious that Lucy has seen a great deal of life and has developed an attitude. She lives unhappily with her stepfather (St John Cowcher) and her mother.
Arnold has a talent that his caring schoolteacher (Siobhán Dow-Hall) is trying to help him develop. When Arnold feels low, he turns to his David Bowie ‘Heroes’ LP for support.
Director Scott McArdle is one of the few who can both write and direct competently; even so he has been most capably assisted with the dramaturg by Alexa Taylor. There are teams that can occasionally produce the ‘Complete’ theatrical production, but Second Chance does it every time.
The four actors have perfect chemistry. The performances are all top class, but the two ‘youngsters’ are truly amazing. This show has a first-class set, lighting, sound and makeup. The multi-faceted, bold and unflinching story covers many topics that are rarely tackled. You will laugh, cringe, perhaps cry as the genuine tension builds. You may even see parts of your own secret life mirrored.
And the acting? – what can one say? MAGNIFICENT. Pure quality. This description is an understatement.