Photo: Tammy Welter as the chaotic Jenny.
Written by Robert Kronk with Howard Cassidy
Directed by Howard Cassidy
Presented by The Judith Wright Centre and Debase Productions
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
Production closed on June 12.
Ah, the joys of being young. You’re fresh, impressionable, energetic, and experiencing life and growth each day – isn’t it exciting?
Meet Jenny. She works at the Chook Nook – a somewhat dubious establishment serving chicken salt with chicken on the side – and sometimes at a hairdresser’s – with interesting “coughcough” clients. She goes to school, and is generally late, is taking the proverbial bull by the horns in the face of love; all this, whilst having to look after her family and help out around the house.
Fly-In Fly-Out is one of the most chaotic productions I have seen in a long time. Produced by Debase productions, it sweeps the audience up in a whirligig of action, romance, drama, and stress, stretching them out to the point where the emotions experienced within the scenes become palpable and real. It was one rollercoaster ride I won’t be forgetting for a long time.
The general plot of Fly-In Fly-Out was quite simple. It followed the journey of sixteen year old Jenny, watched her interact with her friends and younger sister. A new guy comes to town and we see her fall in love for the first time; we see her experience the awkwardness and the excitement that comes with the New before resolving at the start of a new chapter.
The play was cleverly penned by Robert Kronk with Howard Cassidy and directed by Cassidy. According to the program and the website of Debase it mentions “Fly-In Fly-Out was developed in consultation with communities and young people across Central Queensland. It is based on the real and lived experiences of people in these communities at the peak of the mining boom.”
This really came across within the humour of the text bringing to life so many relatable characters and situations that were also just so typically “Aussie”. One of the images that really stuck with me was the boss of the Chook Nook, originally from the Gold Coast with an awful fake tan and long nails that kept dropping off into the food that she served… yeesh.
The lighting design by Jason Glenwright was basic but leant a harsh atmosphere to the stage, reminiscent of the hot Australian sun in regional Queensland; which matched the rich oranges and blues of the minimalistic set designed by Josh McIntosh.
There could have been more of an interaction with the set and the lighting perhaps, in order to enhance the humour of action within some of the scenes – for example the driving lesson scene – not that I presume to correct the direction, but this did not detract from the play itself.
Now the real gems that shone in this show were of course, the actors. Peter Cossar, John Russell, Patrick Dwyer, Stephanie Tandy, and Tammy Welter who played Jenny; all threw themselves into their roles with such enthusiasm it created another layer to the play that was tangible.
Save for Welter, who had enough on her plate as it was, all the actors played multiple characters which, coupled with Jenny’s absolutely chaotic and stressful life added even more energy and swept the audience further into the storm that was the play. I even swore I felt stressed out just by watching the show at times, it moved so fast! If this is the way contemporary Australian theatre is headed, then we can be sure that much more fun will be had. Life certainly won’t be dull.
So to sum up, Fly-In Fly-Out was a chaotic, whirlwind of a show that told the story of a young woman slowly starting to find her place in the world. It showed her experiences with love, grief, resilience and courage that really created a gritty and funny “rom-com” that really resonated with all members of the audience. It was well worth a watch.