As all events of this nature do, MWT issued a challenge to their writers to construct short plays with three parameters. To celebrate location the MWT team cleverly picked the theme of trams as one of those parameters, and thus there was never any doubt Six Degrees in Melbourne would be a celebration of this city and its community. It is also very generous of Yarra Trams to provide some authentic signage to help the night step out of the theatre into our own real world. Five of the six plays sit in modern times, but Heather Forbes-McKeon's play 'Hope' kicks off the evening by stepping us back in time to when the first light railway lines were being laid. Forbes-McKeon indulges in a disappearing speech pattern of rhyming slang and broad vowels as her two characters Mikey (Isabella Gilbert) and Pete (Alec Gilbert) settle in for a day of hard labour laying sleepers and rails. The Gilberts (father and daughter) do the job well and Isabella is certainly a huge star in the making. Forbes-McKeon's script is clever but does try to do too much covering three major social issues with heart but too little space to manoeuvre well.
Director Elizabeth Walley does a fantastic job centring the stories in a generic suburban tram with little more than some metal stools and the authentic signage. Neil McGovern's 'A Fair Price To Pay' places us squarely in the world of the rough and tumble urban conundrum. Taking on the issue of fare evasion with warmth, humour and great the talent of a true wordsmith, McGovern gives Cosima Gilbert (yes, another one...) an amazing vehicle for a young actor. Suffice to say we are going to be seeing a lot of the young Gilberts on stage and screen in the foreseeable future and we will be happy about it.
Staying on the tram Bruce Shearer explores the odd interactions we can find ourselves a part of, or voyeur to, with 'Handbag'. One of the genius ideas Walley provides in her direction is an acknowledgement of the voyeur, the accidental witness, the bystander and in this short play it adds incredible layers to the work. The segue into Alison Knight's play 'Rainbow's End' comes through the introduction of an older woman (Mazz Ryan) in the previous work. In Knight's play, we discover a lovely transsexual woman (Eyawn Harry) being visited by her very straight-laced (still with one leg in the closet) old friend (Alec Gilbert). She spends her days watching Casablanca and accidentally helping the world come to terms with diversity.
Six Degrees In Melbourne really does have something for everyone and we find ourselves in a coffee shop next in Katie Lee's 'It's Not Me, It's You'. Isabella Gilbert and Kyle Roberts take us through the inherent pitfalls of online dating as they meet for the first time. Lee has a lot of fun with the misrepresentations which can take place in the digital world and gives us some great guidance on how to deal with the situation.
Ai Diem Le, Finn Lloyd, and Isabella Gilbert in 'Handbag'
The evening finishes on a dark night in the streets of Melbourne in 'The Woman and The Box' by Martin Rice. Lighting Designer Michele Bauer creates a dangerous atmosphere as Ai Diem Le sits alone in the darkness at a tram stop holding a mysterious gold box. Rice has a background in Aikido - a Japanese martial art - and uses the play as a platform to guide restless youth onto a more stable and centred approach to the world. The threatening young Finn Lloyd is determined to see what is in Le's gold box but to find out he has to first find a way to get hold of it.
Six Degrees In Melbourne is a great collage of the range of stories to be told in Melbourne by Melbournians. Spanning age, race, and socio-economics, the six wonderful short plays on presentation here are nuggets of gold in a bleak modern city where sometimes everything seems so homogenised we fail to take a look at the significant detail. This collection is on for two weeks to take a trip to Carlton and laugh your way tenderly through a world you know so intimately presented with great care, heart, and aspiration.