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Brisbane review – The Amateurs: cleverly conceived and planned

By Lilian Harrington


Production: The Amateurs

Writer: Jordan Harrison

Director: Susan O’Toole- Cridland

Company: Ad Astra Creative

Location: 57 Misterton St. The Valley

Season: 16 November- 9 December

Bookings: Try booking.com/events/landing/1028846 Phone: 041700192



Ad Astra Creativity present entertaining and experimental, productions with their professional actors with a different emphasis for their patrons. For me, a former street performer, I was pleased to see some traditional theatre skills being used in this play which involved the effective use of: pantomime, mask, and hand props. The Amateurs written by Jordan Harrison, tells of a 14th Century itinerant theatre troupe, who are trying to escape the Black Plague, a deadly pandemic, spreading through Europe, at this time; the players plan their program and rehearse their work so as to reach a high standard of performance, in the hope that they will get approval and endorsement from the local Duke, so that they can continue working.

Set in Italy, this tragicomedy is a morality play that follows the guidelines of the era. These low status players use masks and biblical narratives to rehearse and create their plays, which they stage in a simplistic format as they travel from town to town. In the true style of the period Harrison has the actors step in and out of character and at times cross the fourth wall and interact with the audience e. g. Gregory (Greg Scurr), who plays the simpleton and props man effectively, changes character as he steps into the writer’s role and helps create tension, comedy and pathos. The audience follow him with belief and anticipation as the experienced and confident Gregory discloses that he is “the playwright” or moves onto other characters.

Parallels can be seen between recent COVID outbreaks today and the Black Plague that affected both the players and the population everywhere. It creates a cast shortage which has to be covered by the arrival of a mysterious physic or Doctor, (Isaiah Harrison), and has Hollis (Maddie Armit), the leading lady, searching for answers, before he’s auditioned and put to work on stage, playing the characters that Henry, Hollis’s late brother, played.

The players focus on their tour of Noah’s Ark; they include popular shows of the day, such as Cain and Abel and The Fall of Man. It’s a desperate attempt by God, their leader, or Larking (Matthew Filkins), played with confidence, to avoid the plague and keep one step ahead of it , even though players like Brom (Max Phythian) succumb to the fatal virus. The troupe don’t always succeed in their attempts to “smash it”, things go wrong, and as the loose and somewhat frustrated or tactless Rona says, “Half of everyone we’ve ever known is in the ground”. Rona (Lia Davies) gave a memorable performance as the frustrated and somewhat impulsive young woman, who carried Larking’s baby and gave birth to an unwanted, dead baby in very modest circumstances, her performance contrasted effectively with Hollis (Maddie Armit).

This production was cleverly conceived and planned by Susan O’Toole-Cridland, and the casting was well balanced, but unfortunately, there were some technical glitches on the night, that left some players in the dark for a time. However, S.M. (Laraine Griffiths), managed to rectify the situation and the play continued. The costumes and masks planned by Costume Designer (Julia Cox), were effective and facilitated fast changes . The audience responded well to the clever puppetry which was well done and enjoyed by viewers. The set was simply planned by Set Designer (Kirsty Van Der Zeil); it featured a “traditional wagon” used to carry props and clothes, not part of the main action. The very cohesive cast helped the production to flow well, making The Amateurs worthwhile theatre entertainment and fun to go and see.

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