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Boy, Girl, Wall
Devonport Repertory Theatre Society
Leven Theatre, Ulverstone

February 25th, 2022

It’s my first trip back to the theatre for 2022. With Tasmania just surviving the re-emergence of a pandemic and the terrifying prospect of a war overseas; thank goodness we have the theatre to sustain us with a dose of escapism. However, heading to Ulverstone for Boy, Girl, Wall; presented by the Devonport Repertory Society, I wasn’t expecting the existential crisis of a Circuit Breaker, the hopeless sentimentality of a Wall, or the personification of the days of the week. But this is what I was served in this accomplished and charming one woman show, impressively delivered by Elizabeth Jolly.

Boy, Girl, Wall; written by Matthew Ryan and Lucas Stibbard, is a one person show that recounts the story of Thom and Alethea and their mundane existence, set over the course of one week. We are introduced to the many characters, and in some cases objects, that they encounter and follow the events that lead up to their eventual first meeting. Originally performed by Lucas Stibbard himself, the application of the role to a female performer and perspective is efficiently pertinent, it enables the performer to capture further satirical caricatures than previously possible.

Elizabeth Jolly plays all twenty-five of the characters mentioned throughout the script, all tied together by a Narrator. This Narrator seems to be disconnected from the world, telling us the story with an outside perspective. I would have personally loved to see this character, who propelled the show forwards, have a more stirring dynamic. There were minute moments in the script, where things slowed up and it leaves the Narrator with the job to build it up. While Jolly’s energy never wavered, I would have loved to see how these moments may have been affected by placing the Narrator inside the world and letting us follow the story via a direct source.

But this small qualm with the Narrator, didn’t impede on my delectation of Jolly’s performance. She is an electric and enthralling performer, continually bringing new surprises with every additional character. Simple stereotypical physicalisations or vocalisations, help us identify each character as someone different, and more disturbingly, someone we know. To be alone on stage and hold an audience’s attention span over a 90-minute run time requires a performer with palpable comic timing, charisma and just a little bit of magic. Jolly has all three.

Her range was displayed at its finest via the amusing dynamic between Demis Papadopoulous and Kathleen Jones during a 1970’s disco, and with Alan Rack, the goth librarian during story time at the library. Plus, her personification of all the days of the week is a highlight; with Friday culminating in some of the biggest laughs of the night.

Taylor Pearce’s direction is aggressively ludicrous and full of slapstick, offering the impression of improvised mayhem but the meticulous work achieved finding each character’s differences are most impressive. Pearce’s decision to decorate the set with chalk boards, including altering furniture to incorporate them, was an ingenious means of removing excess props and kept it simple and clean. It also allowed the capability for charming sight gags to be drawn live, which assured the quirky charm of the piece.

The performance is also bolstered by a two-piece band with original compositions by Autumn George. There were moments early on where Jolly was competing with the music and without a microphone those moments were lost. However, the sparingly chosen occasions of music that were sprinkled throughout were composed and chosen immaculately, providing a subtle nuance that was just enough of a point of difference to facilitate empathy within the absurdity.

With DARE Collective in the process of producing our own one woman show, it was fantastic to see an audience support and embrace the story of Thom and Alethea and ride every moment of slapstick that Jolly provided us with. Boy, Girl, Wall only runs for 3 more nights, so don’t miss out.

Review by Matt Taylor

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