Written by Katie Pollock
Directed by Luke Rogers
Canberra Youth Theatre
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 24 October
Reviewed by Len Power 22 October 2020
Long delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Canberra Youth Theatre’s production of Australian author, Katie Pollock’s play, ‘Normal’, finally makes it to the stage and in the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Playhouse, no less.
‘Normal’ is all about the pressures on young people to conform and succeed, the power of peer influence and the need to be accepted and fit in. This play focusses on the plight a young woman but the issues presented could apply to young men, too.
Poppy, played by Holly Ross, has developed a tic which is spreading through her body. The perception of her affliction by friends and the society around her starts to raise major concerns. Then her ‘disease’ starts to spread to others.
The strength in Katie Pollock’s writing is the realistic modern day dialogue between characters and the issues underpinning her play are cleverly and clearly presented. More background to the characters would have helped to be able to fully understand the motivation for their behaviours as the play progressed.
The staging of this production is impressive with a starkly dramatic setting and a finely detailed lighting design by Gillian Schwab as well as subtle sound design by Kimmo Vennonen. Director, Luke Rogers, uses the acting space very well, keeping his actors moving and relating naturally to each other.
Costuming was plain and would have benefited from props or accessories to denote the various characters played by the supporting actors.
In the main role of Poppy, Holly Ross is dynamic and impressive as the young woman with the affliction. With the director’s help, more light and shade in her vocal delivery of this marathon role would have added a more believable level of naturalism.
There were some heart felt performances by the other three cast members but, from halfway back in the theatre, it was hard to understand what they were saying often. The problem seemed to be twofold – lack of projection and clarity of diction. It was right that the characters should speak as young modern women but their delivery was often too fast and indistinct to catch what they were actually saying.
It was good to see Canberra Youth Theatre tackling a play from a writer of the calibre of Katie Pollock. The author was in the audience on opening night. ‘Normal’ has been nominated for the 2020 AWGIE for Theatre for Young Audiences.
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