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An exceptional example of Adelaide youth theatre
Take your buggy on a short drive to the hills this June and go on a journey to the delightfully entertaining town of Green Gables. The Hills Youth Theatre has brought the classic tale 'Anne of Green Gables' to life once again on the Stirling Community Theatre stage. Set in Canada on Prince Edward Island the story, based on the 1908 novel by author Lucy Maud Montgomery, follows Anne (with an 'e', if you would be so kind) and her incredible imagination through adventures of mischief, gossip, romance and growing up.
Those who've known the Hills Youth Theatre (HYT) in its 30 year history would be familiar with the incredibly high standard that has consistently been delivered since the founding and guiding tuition of Joan Leslie. Joan, now patron of HYT wrote and directed this very play, on this very stage, 15 years ago and was in audience attendance on Sunday to enjoy Di Mason's adapted version that delivered to that original standard in spades. Forget the old adage 'never work with animals and children' because everything in this show does work and the entire case of performers are youth. As curious young audience member remarked during second act 'Are they all really kids on stage?', it is easy to forget that it is indeed a youth theatre.
Director and Tutor, Di Mason and cast members from Anne of Green Gables - Lucie Zodrow as Anne Shirley, Zoe Muller as Diana Barry and Ikee Blackman as Gilbert Blythe.
As the title character of Anne Shirley, Lucie Zodrow delivers a wonderful, dreamy and animated performance (even from the 'depths of despair!). Anne's adoptive carer, Matilda Butler playing Marilla Cuthbert, brings a well matched strength and wit to the character with Sam Reissenwebed as Matthew Cuthbert tugging on the emotional heart strings with his endearing approach. The combination of the three characters provided terrific balance to Anne's up's and down's throughout the story.
Across the way, Chloe Zodrow's consistent delivery as the purse lipped Mrs Lynde is outstanding. Joining her for an entertaining gossip Ayla Rodriguez, Yolanda Dalton and Eloise Cobby-Smith complete the group of well-spoken local ladies. Anne's bosom buddy Diana Barry, played by 'Zoe Muller, sips, skips and gulps in her highly entertaining performance, along with a great blend of Anne's friends by Charlotte MacKenzie, Bellarose Watts, Cassandra Barrow, Sophie Zodrow and Lane Wesson. Amongst a group of strong women, Ikee Blackman smoothly croons through his undulating relationship with Anne as Gilbert Blythe.
As a whole, the hundred strong cast are an exceptional ensemble with natural movements and dialog flow setting the scene, and engaging tableau's that fill the stage. Clear audience favourites and highlights of the show include a tightly choreographed folk dance at the school picnic, a grand finale concert and live string and wind ensemble on stage. Impeccable attention to detail in costumes polishes the cast of characters with astonishing arrays of pinnies, flowing gowns, gloves and petticoats. Caps and bonnets complete costumes and perfect period props, bags and accessories transport the audience to the time and setting that the story takes place.
Backstage, the engine room of the production is staffed by volunteers and highest kudos are due to a crew who didn't miss a cue. As an audience member it is a pleasure to enjoy a show where every curtain opens, lights come up and microphone and song is consistently heard. The green theme tastefully shines through the very effective set design. Clever integration of a digital projected backdrop is a highlight with cleverly complimentary colour palates and perspectives that draw the audience into the scene.
Very few productions could lay claim to being written, produced, directed, staged and performed locally but Anne of Green Gables and the Hills Youth Theatre have done just that, and done it exceptionally well.
From the wood fires in the foyer to the cosy mood within the theatre, the Stirling institute is always a welcoming and charming place to see any show. Anne's imagination will be let loose for more 3 performances in the season but tickets are selling fast. Come along and enjoy the capers of Anne with an 'E'!
Remaining performances will be held at Stirling Community Theatre, 7 Avenue Road, Stirling on:
Friday, 26 June at 7.00pm Saturday, 27 June at 5.00pm
Sunday, 28 June at 2.00pm.
To see current show details or to purchase tickets please visit hillsyouththeatre.com/current-show.
Prices are: adults $15, child/concession $12, family $48 (2 adults, 2 children).
Kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite story book character for a walk on stage!
The reviewer was invited as a guest of HYT to watch and review this performance