‘Signs’ is a wonderful example of the best of the Anywhere Festival: site-specific new work, beautifully written, sensitively directed, and performed by a talented cast in front of local audiences. A funny, illuminating, and highly-entertaining show about 5 high school students, ‘Signs’ is one of my top picks for the 2017 festival. Following a sell-out run of only 4 shows, I really hope that Vacant Collective are able to bring this production to a wider audience. It’s perfect for educational theatre, and I am certain that more people around Brisbane would love to see it coming to their schools (or even theatres).
School Captain, Noah (the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh), chairs a small committee—an unlikely group charged with designing and producing the graduating class yearbook. Noah introduces the concept of a “safety net” to encourage participation as, aside from an aspiring writer (Levi Wilcox as Cam), the rest of the group appear to have little real interest in yearbook production. The Football Captain (Dean Taylor as Jock) and Sports Captain (Caeleb Grosser as Simon) are best friends, but otherwise the rest of the committee appear to have very different interests and social spheres. Their roles in the school define them, and establish specific sets of friends. Thus, despite a high profile as school Drama President, Byron (Peter Wood) has to correct Noah at the end of the first meeting: “My name’s Byron, not Brian.” And when Cam confides in Noah, his note adds that “no one ever asks.” During the 60 minute play, they all discover the benefits of working together, learning more about each other and themselves in the process.
Some of the plays I have seen during the 2017 Anywhere Festival promised hilarity and great humour. In contrast, the promotional material for ‘Signs’ promised neither, but writer Aimee Duroux, and Director Samantha Bull, have created a really funny and enjoyable show, using words and silences to great effect. Some of the humour centred on the committee beginning to work together. Agreeing on the “vintage” styling of Polaroid portraits, the group began to gel when Cam managed to get Jock to smile, and as they all gathered to wait for the picture to develop. But much of the fun was to be had in the smaller cameos. When Jock and Byron remain alone in the classroom, I enjoyed both the writing (in the interaction between Taylor and Wood), and also Greenhalgh's departing ‘business,’ as he reminded them of the continued operation of the “safety net” once he had left.
Working on the yearbook allows the committee to split up into many different combinations. A number of these ‘double acts’ were memorable both for the humour but also for revealing the developing trust and openness between the students. Working together on the arts section of the yearbook—Jock gets the great line that “Simon and Byron sounds like a ‘90s pop duo”—creates an opportunity for Grosser and Wood to have an open conversation that goes to the heart of the play. For it isn’t all laughter and fun—as Wood vents his fears and frustrations as to how to answer the difficult questions as to “What else do you do?[…] What are you going to do with your life, Byron?”
The casting was excellent. I really did believe that each member of the team was that person. Greenhalgh was the School Captain who struggled to juggle his responsibilities, Grosser the all-rounder who proved himself to be a great friend, Wilcox the talented introvert who becomes a key member of the team, and Taylor the sporting ‘Jock’ who was more intelligent than he might have first seemed. (Incidentally, I understand that Taylor was a late addition to the cast and did an excellent job—just occasionally needing to have a bit more confidence in some of the great lines). Wood also maintained his record for funniest entrances of the festival, luxuriating in the green cloak when announcing he was “feeling particularly sassy today.”
And the location is perfect. Redcliffe State High School provided a wonderful setting for the show. The audience waited outside to enter the classroom, and quickly entered into the spirit of being back at school. Once seated, we had front-row seats for a sequence of meetings and side discussions, and the cast had our full attention.
A sign is not only the acting of making your mark (an autograph), but can be a fixed information point or gesture to indicate direction or convey information. In the hands of the talented Duroux and Bull—and through the excellent performances of Greenhalgh, Grosser, Taylor, Wilcok, Wood, and great work of Stage Manager Melissa Herburg, and Costume Designer Jaymee Richards—‘Signs’ was a really enjoyable show that highlighted that appearances can be deceptive, and that colleagues should be more open to picking up on the feelings and challenges faced by those around them.
The reviewer attended the 20th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.
Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/signs/ $17-22 . 60 minutes. The show had only 4 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (18th-21st May).