Wednesday 12 July 2023

Away review

First performed almost 40 years ago, Michael Gow’s Away is an Australian masterpiece about three families holidaying along the coast for Christmas in 1968. It’s been staged countless times across the country (and world) but under the direction of Steven Mitchell Wright, this production at Theatre Works will sit firmly in my mind for breathing new life and perspective to the narrative and the bold, adventurous nature of its storytelling.

The direction, costumes and performances make this exceptionally unique and anyone who has seen any production of this show will be surprised by how scenes unfold and how they are presented. The brilliant ensemble has been offered the freedom to take these characters and make them their own, which is extremely exciting to watch.

Eleanor Howlett takes the abrasive Gwen to an 11 and she is an absolute joy. Her voice, posture and facial expressions as she battles with her anxieties and worries are perfectly matched and timed with her delivery of dialogue. Linda Cookson is highly memorable as Coral, displaying the pain and grief of losing her son while remaining in this surreal world. Other performances of note include Rupert Bevan as Tom, the young thespian whose future is in doubt, and Iopu Auva'a, who despite being more conventional than the others, delivers a wonderful job as Tom's father Harry.

Mitchell Wright should be commended for his inclusion of early-career actors from CollArts as a sea of blue chorus folk and background characters and having a number of them working behind the scenes. No doubt, this would be a valuable learning experience for the next generation of theatre makers to be under his accomplished eye in crafting inspiring shows.

Greg Carroll’s costume design consisting of a mix of late 60s fashion and Shakespearean outfits of frilly shirts, ostentatious wigs and ruffled collars, is full of colour and life that elicits a tense feeling of an impending collision that this group of people will be forced to confront. Rachel Lewindon’s composition and sound allows the audience to sink into the story and the environment while heightening the emotional elements. Ben Hughes’ lighting design simultaneously remains grounded and supportive and adds impact to scenes during pivotal moments with striking blue lighting and strobes.

Mitchell Wright has a proven track record in creating work that is daring and innovative. Even in taking this 40-year-old play and flipping it on its head, Mitchell Wright’s attention to the hard-working middle class is still honoured but he successfully brings it in line with the current struggles individuals and families are facing. The frightening reality is that time may have moved forward but the issues that are at play in Away are still being felt today. Perhaps this really is a sign of the times.

Show Details

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St. Kilda

Season: until 3 June | Tues - Fri 11:00am and 7:30pm, Sat 7:30pm
Duration: 120 minutes plus interval

Tickets: $50 Full | $42 Concession | 20 for $20
Theatre Works

Image Credit: Daniel Rabin

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