Sunday 23 October 2022

The Beep Test review (Melb Fringe)

The Beep Test. For those who know it, it is most likely the cause of much anxiety and triggering memories during your high school years. For four students (and their PE Teacher), it is the instigator of some serious competition as each one vies to take out the title of Beep Test champion for the year, with a bit of song and dance thrown in the mix.

Created by Conor Neylon and Jackson Peele (Neylon & Peele) and presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Beep Test is an original musical theatre show that is an A+ production. It is an exceptional fun hour of comedy that takes an unexpectedly emotional look at dealing with the pressures that hang around us and the ones we put on ourselves during our formative years, and the lasting impact this can have.

When you see how small the stage is, you wonder how they’re going to demonstrate the beep test arena but as director, Peele finds a surprisingly obvious way that then sets the tone for the rest of the show. The backstory and motivations that Peele provides for his characters ensures that The Beep Test isn’t simply about the race itself but uses the race as a way to explore themes of greater consequence.

This is also pulled off by the talented (and fit!) cast who inject authenticity into their roles and deliver fabulous comedic timing. Lachie Hewson is perfect as the obnoxious PE Teacher who is desperately trying to hold on to his glory days through top jock Zach (Josh Reckless). Reckless shines with the difficult task of displaying Zach's arrogance and entitlement, while helping us appreciate why he behaves the way he does.

Jo Jabalde as Sandra the overachiever and Jack Keen as Cooper the awkward buffoon, have amazing chemistry as two students considering the possibility of becoming something more than friends. Sara Reed as Jane the all-round good girl is probably the least developed character, who mainly serves as a foil to Zach in her attempts to take him down a peg or two.

The music and lyrics by Neylon are a wonderful blending of familiar musical theatre songs and pop, rap and other genres that propel the story forward while highlighting the inner thoughts of the characters. The choreography is something to be marveled at, reminiscent of all the pop bands we would have listened to and watched their music videos back in our highs school days.

The Beep Test
is a fantastic example of when a shared vision flawlessly comes together. Neylon & Peele clearly understand the structure of musical theatre but with their personalised creative touches, they've made a show that sits at the head of the class. They may be relatively new to the performing arts but this is definitely a duo destined for big things.

Click here to read our interview with Jackson Peele.

The Beep Test
was performed between 18 -22 October at Theatre Works.

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