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.
'The most talented American playwright of her generation'
A projector flickers and the movie is over. This is where Annie Baker's exceptional play, The Flick, begins. This three-hour (yes, that's right – THREE HOURS) work is being presented by Outhouse Theatre at the Seymour Centre, completely transforming the Reginald Theatre into an old school movie theatre for the length of its run.
The Flick won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting and with perfectly written dialogue, fascinating characters and Annie Baker's trademark pauses, it's clear why this playwright has made her mark on the theatrical world.
The premise of The Flick is simple. We are in a movie theatre that is one of the last bastions of true film-cinema, where the more and more cinemas are installing Blue Ray players. For three hours we follow the stories of three employees of the movie theatre in vignettes: the young film enthusiast on his first day of work, the jaded 35-year-old who never made anything of himself and the female projectionist who may or may not be a lesbian. As the play progresses, we get to know these employees of the movie theatre intimately. We learn of their deepest desires, insecurities and secrets as silent observers and when their friendship is tested, we watch things fall apart.
Outhouse Theatre has pulled together a solid production of this play. For the most part, it is engaging and captivating, despite the lengthy runtime, however I do maintain that the runtime could have been cut down significantly with a better balance of entertainment and ultra-realism needing to be struck at times. Director, Craig Baldwin has maintained an almost cinematic look and feel to his version of the play and the naturalism that ensues is quite beautiful to watch. Often, the nicest moments are in the silences, where the characters go about their jobs and their thoughts are written on their faces rather than verbalised. Whilst there is definitely tightening to be done, it's an excellent interpretation of a fabulous script.
Set design by Hugh O'Connor has the wow factor on entering the theatre – he has nailed the old-school cinematic experience from the dowdy carpet to the weird coloured panelling on the walls and all of a sudden it feels like I'm five years old again and sitting in a 1990s Hoyts. Lighting by Martin Kinnane is a little hit and miss. The constant juxtaposition of the movie lighting and the brutal flickering on of the fluoro lights when the show is done is perfect, but at times the lighting and sound that happens in between scenes is a little incoherent. Sound composition and design is a little overdone – there are pieces of music that could be a lot shorter and still achieve the desired effect. There is effectively an overture and an entr'acte at the opening of each act, which feels a little too much for a play that is already very long.
Justin Amankwah, in his stage debut, is wonderful as the uncertain, anxious Avery. This young actor's ability to show, not tell is evident as he delivers an engaging and emotive performance. Mia Lethbridge is an absolute standout as Rose, the projectionist. She's the perfect blend of quirky, down to earth and frank and for me, her effortlessly good performance is the standout of the night. Jeremy Waters is unfortunately miscast as Sam. He reads too old for the character compared to the other actors and his performance is too heightened for the ultra-naturalistic performances of the other actors. He still manages some nice moments, but ultimately it does feel like he is acting in a different play to the rest of the cast. Matthew Cheetham is perfectly fine in his dual roles of the Sleeping Man and new guy Skylar – however the script doesn't give him much of an opportunity to make much of an impact.
All in all, this production is solid. It's not a wow-factor kind of play; in fact it's more a long, slow burn, but the payoff is definitely worth it.