By Vivienne Glance
VICTORIA HALL, FREMANTLE
25th January 2015
Presented by Skylight Ensemble
This is a tragic story of love and loss, imaginatively staged, with a mainly young cast. What it occasionally lacks in pace, it makes up for with its depth of ideas and some good performances.
This show embraces the wonder and pride Fremantle’s Victoria Hall has in the imagination of many. Seated cabaret-style, the audience follows the contemporary and past lives of residents of this coastal city who were associated with the history of this nineteenth century hall, which has at times been a music hall, church hall and is now a theatre.
The play begins with a modern day tragedy and weaves towards reconciliation by opening up an imagined world of ghosts and memories. Each historical character, including soldiers, the architect who built the hall (played by a stately Chris Wortham), a local stonemason’s family, and many others, recalls their attachment to this building and how they cannot leave.
The staging uses the whole space with actors walking amongst the tables and on the stage, and effectively brings the hall itself into the story as a character. Members of this talented cast at times, dance, sing and play piano, and the atmospheric lighting provides a dreamy quality.
The momentum is occasionally hampered by each character’s monologue recounting their own story, even though the writing has moments of lyricism.
The cast of mainly young people performed very well. And it is through the eyes of Johnny, a decorator, that we are introduced to this other world, peopled by the past. This role is alternated, and I saw the talented Obe Oldmeadow perform. Kira-Che Heelan as Skyla, his girlfriend, overcomes the limited emotional range her character is allowed, and gives a nuanced performance.
There are moments of lightness provided by the two decorators, Jock (Kai Arbuckle) and Bill (James ‘Fish’ Gill), but this ambitious play mainly focuses on the tragic effect of losing a loved one. However, it allows for the hope that there is a place full of love beyond death.