I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
A contemporary tale of love and family
Technicolor Life by Jami Brandli rolls on like a steam train at The Depot Theatre in Marrickville. A quirky, poignant tale of adjusting to circumstances beyond one's control, this play is engaging and refreshing.
Technicolor Life is narrated by Maxine (Nyssa Hamilton), a teenager with an impeccable vocabulary who is struggling to reconnect with her just-returned-from-Iraq war hero sister (Tasha O'Brien), support her newly divorced mother (Cherrie Whelan-David) and amuse her ailing grandmother who has returned to live with them (Cherilyn Price). On a quest to help her sister Billie find happiness back on home soil, Maxine unearths Billie's diary and creates a dating profile for her. Through the site, she plays matchmaker, setting Billie up with Jake, a similarly wounded war veteran played beautifully by James Martin.
This is a bold and out there play and the production certainly supports this with Julie Baz's direction playing up the quirkiness of the script. This is particularly evident in the use of Emily Sulzberger and Amy-Victoria Brooks as the two female characters in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes who interfere in Maxine's quest to find Billie a boyfriend.
The play itself does seem to cram too much into a two hour running time, which at times does become overwhelming. However, the actors navigate the text with ease and produce some lovely moments. David Jeffrey's lovely set design involves a painted stage with a raised platform in a colour palette that conjures up the sandy setting of the Middle Eastern conflict, but also works as the domestic setting for Maxine's family home and bedroom. Mehran Mortezaei's lighting design supports the onstage work well, however the use of the flashing rainbow wash lights over the bedroom was distracting and unnecessary. Julie Baz's costume design was inconsistent, with Susan's grey WW2 era costume looking a little out of place with the rest of the characters, but the costuming of Maxine, Billie and Jake is spot on.
Nyssa Hamilton plays a fantastic Maxine. Sitting somewhere on the spectrum of precocious genius and fixer-upper, Hamilton is engaging and empathetic throughout the entire play. Tasha O'Brien's Billie gets the angsty, damaged soldier right, however it would be nice to see some real vulnerability from this young actor as Billie's guard is slowly broken down. James Martin excels in his double cast role as Billie's two love interests, Peter and Jake. Cherrilyn Price is a whirlwind of fun as Grandma Franny, and her more poignant moments are handled gently and honestly. Cherrie Whalen-David as Susan saves her best moment for the show's moving climax, where she nearly brings the house to tears.
All in all, Technicolor Life is a bold and vibrant play. It may have its flaws, but it's certainly engaging and never boring. It's exciting to see The Depot Theatre take on contemporary works like this that showcase the talents of strong female protagonists and I look forward to the rest of their season.