Just Imagine Youth Drama School
Earl Arts Centre, Launceston
October 1st, 2020
It appears “Just Imagine” have always found themselves in the shadow of other youth drama schools in Launceston such as LYTE and Stage Right when it comes to public exposure. So, the initiative from producer and owner Amanda Sutherland to embark on the creation of their Special Projects Program as a means of opportunity for her students has got to be commended. In a year when so much of Launceston’s cultural makeup has been lost and theatres have all been dark; for student’s to get an opportunity to perform on the Earl Arts stage, gain valuable professional experience and work with a talented writer/director, will give the school a boost in public recognition.
Imogen Kalisch’s Lotus is the story of two girls who have been locked inside a shed by their parents to keep them safe amid a national disaster. Heavily influenced from our current pandemic situation, and our own period of isolation; Kalisch has crafted a story, part emotional rollercoaster, part whimsical fantasy, that serves as an appropriate vehicle for the two young actresses. She finds a way; through continued depicted scenes of mundanity inside the shed (counting food, building a house of cards, walking the perimeter with a gun), to bring the audience along with their feeling of isolation, and the way it can drive someone mad.
Maddie Elmer’s Chloe has a rough edge to her as she oversees looking after her younger sister. She plays the role with sincerity and a delightfully naturalistic delivery that helps to give the character a heart that an audience can support throughout. Romana Sutherland’s June on the other hand, contrasts Chloe with an exaggerated energy that works to help her become the over the top, annoying little sister that we all recognize. Both girls give performances to be proud of as their energies and characters did not diminish throughout.
There were a couple of moments during some of the more energetic scenes, where some dialogue was lost because the actors had their backs to the audience and their lines were delivered upstage. There also seemed to be moments where they had to compete with the looping environmental soundscapes, which I personally think could have been lowered once the setting was established. After a while it became a white noise that just got in the way of the actor’s performances.
Overall, this play is a story of two sisters that looked the most like sisters in their moments of memory and imagination. These scenes brought the show to life and the siblings’ relationship to a new level. Their frustration and disconnect in their mundane “Shed Life”, were juxtaposed by moments of connection, friendship and love in their imagined, dream sequences. I think it says something beautiful about the state of isolation. It tells us that memory and imagination are the ties that bind us in a time of loneliness and darkness. It is what keeps us together, what continues to bring joy and how we maintain a love for one another. This was adeptly portrayed with joyous lighting and sound, contrasting the relatively bleak shed light. It is a message that can help us keep moving forward out of the darkness in a year that has been tough for many.
Unfortunately though, if anything has summed up 2020 better than a paper plane taking an immediate nosedive after an ultimately uplifting moment, I am yet to see it in the theatre.
Review by Matt Taylor