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Where Shall We Meet?

Harness Ensemble

Directed by Natalie Rose and Jane Phegan

Composers: Jack Prest and Frank Dwyer

Photo credit: Claire Hawley

Shopfront Theatre, Carlton, until October 9

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

Ron Lee Theatre Reviews

When you have a theatre company in which the age tops out at 26, you’re going to have a cast and crew that are young and enthusiastic. In addition, four of the nine performers are on the spectrum. The question is, will their relative inexperience and youth be drawbacks?

Where Shall We Meet? Is one of the most organic productions I’ve seen.

Harrison Bishop, Madison Chippendale, Lana Filies, Amelia Gilday, Lily Hayman, Steve Konstantopoulos, Nick Vagne, Sophie Florence Ward and Kate Wooden are addressed by their real first names, so there’s a tendency towards naturalism.

It starts out with each of the onstage performers introducing one of the others, and we learn about some of the quirky idiosyncrasies. One has a crush on Zac Efron, another is obsessed with Jon English as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and another has a man-crush on Grant Denyer. It’s hard to come to terms with that last one.

Shopfront Theatre, Carlton,

The production involves theatrical devices that are familiar. Whether they identify it or not, The Meisner Technique is a strong influence. It involves the three elements of Emotional Preparation, Repetition and Improvisation.

There are essential elements to the choreography yet it’s fluid; it allows free and spontaneous expression and also has structure.

I was curious to see the involvement of the four performers who are on the spectrum. Once in the NIDA Theatre I saw a production in which an actor with Down’s Syndrome was cast. It was ultimately disappointing in that it seemed like an exercise in self-congratulation; “look what we’ve taught our pet monkey to do”. Not so this time. This is a true ensemble piece in which everyone is an equal, even if one of them fascinated with Grant Denyer. If anything, they go to lengths to ensure political correctness.

The Shopfront Theatre is an excellent, suburban, grassroots venue that has the main theatre, a rehearsal room, a studio and a bunch of enthusiastic and focused young people and is well-run.

In the final analysis, all that matters is the answer to the question, “Is Where Shall We Meet? worth seeing?”

theatre reviews sydney

It’s an easy “yes”. Many theatrical productions contain an unintended cynicism, but my companion who is a very experienced actress (yes, she describes herself by the gender-specific term; there’s no right or wrong, it’s a matter of personal choice) mentioned that this production is refreshingly open and fresh with a sense of innocence.

We left the Shopfront entirely satisfied that we had an enjoyable experience and assured that Australian theatre is in capable hands.


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