‘Harvey of Aspirations’

‘Harvey of Aspirations’ is an ambitious, semi-autobiographical piece written by Murdoch student, Anthony KJ Smith when he was only 17. The 100-minute play was directed by Justin Crossley, who was assisted by Kiah Van Vlijmen; the performances are each evening at 7.00, on Thursday 13th, Friday 14th and Saturday 15th November in the Drama Workshop, Building 411 – opposite car park 4 – Murdoch University, Murdoch.

The set was simple, a couple of chairs and a back screen. The filming and background projection (David Cox) showed Cooper Van Vlijmen as young Harvey, swimming in the ocean. Good makeup and hair design from Sophie Braham and Cassee Lazic.

        The scene opens with Harvey (Eamonn Skov), a depressed teenager who has lost interest in the world. He is standing on a beach staring at the tide waxing and waning, recalling how a decade earlier he had almost drowned. Harvey’s mother (Chloé Laffar) misses her husband, Arnold (Ryan Partridge) who disappeared all those years ago. She is distraught at the change in her son, as he mindlessly watches videos and trolling the internet.

       Harvey has a new girlfriend, Emma (Claire Tebbutt), who is determined to drag him back to normality. Then one evening, Harvey is visited by two spirits, one is smiling and in a bright flowery dress (costumes Abbey McCaughan), she is Hope (Katherine O’Brien – excellent) the other is in an army garb, lackadaisical and laconic, Doubt (Hannah Anderson – superb). They talk to Harvey and suggest that he goes back to the same beach that he almost drowned at, because he lost most of his soul there.

       Harvey recalls the love of his life from that terrible time a decade ago, Rebecca (Tarryn McGrath) and sees himself as the much younger man (Sean Mackey).

       Onto the scene appears The Keeper (Bella Doyle, very good), or Suit as she is affectionately know. ‘Suit’ is a stern, manipulative woman determined to ruin anyone that steps in her way, so will Harvey be able to regain what has been lost all of these years?

Anthony KJ has written a fairly simple story, but skilfully blended in some advanced ideas and moods. Sadly, psychological themes are one of the hardest to direct and perform. The cast worked hard, but the tale did not quite click. The pace was about 20% too slow; admittedly, Harvey was depressed, but most of the other characters should have been operating at normal speed.

Because Harvey did not give any affection, or shows little response, does not mean that the others should have been ‘traumatised’ too, by also lacking in normal, affectionate chemistry. The mother and girlfriend should have been physically closer, touching, with cuddles, pecks and kisses.

A couple of suggestions; keep eye contact with the person that you are talking to; often the actors addressed the heavens. Develop a second octave – usually a lower one – as beginners or nervous actors, often go up an octave and stay there for their performances. Work your waist and neck muscles, ‘Hope’ was very good, radiating her feelings, and ‘Doubt’ who was deliberately static, allowed her magnificent expressions to say it all.

This was an advanced play, difficult to perform, but given a wonderfully bold attempt by the writer, directors and cast.