Sunday, October 27, 2013


Written by Helen Machalias
Directed by Andrew Holmes
The Street Theatre, October 25 to November 3, 2013

Review by Len Power October 26, 2013

Plays with a message can be problematic.  When ‘the message’ dominates a play, it quickly becomes an evening of tedium.  ‘In Loco Parentis’ avoids this trap.  The play by new Australian writer, Helen Machalias, is compelling, confronting, educating, unflinching and it’s a rattling good mystery as well.

Set in a fictitious exclusive residential Canberra college, it covers a year of investigation into rape allegations and details the impact on all of those involved.  We’re quick to make judgements only to find that there’s a lot more going on than we were led to believe at the start.

As stated in the program, ‘In Loco Parentis’ is a principle that allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of students as they see fit, although not allowing what could be considered violations of the student’s civil liberties.  How we see that principle applied during the action of this play is a matter of great concern.

There were very good performances by Catherine Crowley as the University Sexual Harassment Officer, Kate Blackhurst as the Head of College, Dylan Van Den Berg as the student, Mitch, and Hannah Wood as another student, Katy.  The five chorus members, played by Jake Brown, Mia Carr, Linda Chen, Lewis McDonald and Georgia Pelle were all believable characters.

The simple, but effective set and lighting was by Gillian Schwab and there was an imaginative use of the light thrown by mobile phone screens.  Sound design by Shoeb Ahmad was also notable and the costume choices worked well.

Made up of a number of short scenes, the play is well-directed, with finely flowing transitions from one scene to the next.  Director, Andrew Holmes has done a fine job integrating all of the various elements of this play, maintaining a good pace and obtaining in-depth performances from his cast.

The play by Helen Machalias is well-written, the incidents played out are believable and the characters have considerable depth.  There was no avoiding or playing down of some of the appalling incidents that the play details and the language is, of necessity, very strong.  At nearly two hours without a break, this intense play could benefit from some minor trimming to bring the running time down to a more sustainable ninety minutes.  This is the writer’s first full length play and it’s a mature and exciting work which deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 27 October 2013.

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