|Electra Spencer and Holly Ross in NORMAL
Katie Pollock – Directed by Luke Rogers
lighting designed by Gillian Schwab – Sound designed by Kimmo Vennonen
Theatre Centre Playhouse, 22nd to 24th October, 2020.
Pollock’s AWGIE nominated play, “Normal”, deals with the plight of Poppy, a
young woman stricken with a Tourette’s-like condition, who struggles for
understanding and acceptance from those with whom she comes in contact in her
The play traces
Poppy’s experience from the moment her best friend notices a tell-tale symptom.
As her symptoms become increasingly severe, those surrounding Poppy begin to
isolate her, withdrawing support and even accusing her of faking her symptoms
to gain attention.
Youth Theatre has given the play a polished, stripped back production, firmly
and imaginatively directed by Luke Rogers.
sparse, sophisticated setting with its central raked stage and large suspended
overhead screen, provided a starkly clinical atmosphere, which was emphasised
by her moody lighting, and complimented by Kimmo Vennonen’s evocative sound
though attractive, the absence of furniture or props to provide clues to time
and place meant that the actors were totally exposed.
|Holly Ross as Poppy in NORMAL
As Poppy, Holly
Ross was riveting in a role that required her to be on stage for almost the
entire performance, portraying the distressing tic and wide range of emotions
with convincing sincerity.
Collins, McKenzie Battye-Smith, and Electra Spencer, shared all the other roles, among them, Holly’s mother, her friend and her
friend’ mother, a psychiatrist, a school councillor, a television reporter and
a shop assistant.
The task of portraying
a wide range of different characters demanded significant emotional range and acting
technique from the young actors, and while all three gave commendably strong,
committed performances, they were not always up to these demands.
|McKenzie Battye-Smith - Electra Spencer - Holly Ross -Jemma Collins
Therefore as the severity of Holly’s symptoms increased, and her reactions began to isolate her from her worried mother, her friends and health professionals, provided with only minimalistic changes of costume to differentiate characters, it became difficult to follow the thread of the storyline, and maintain connection with the characters, because so much essential information was lost through insufficient vocal projection and imprecise articulation. Therefore when the final denouement was reached, with all characters exhibiting Poppy’s symptoms, apparently confirming accusations that her condition was more mental than physical, it was both puzzling and shocking.
All photos by Images Instantly.
This review also appears in Australian Arts Review - www.artsreview.com.au