The Subiaco Theatre Festival is in full swing with its mission to give independent theatre makers a second chance to revisit their previously produced works. This week they’re presenting The Lost Boys’ Moving On Inc. by writer/director Mikala Westall. Moving On Inc. was first produced as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s 2015 Summer Nights program.
Having seen the show in its first run, I came back for a refresher at Subiaco Arts Centre and discovered that the shows major twists hadn’t changed. The basic bones of the piece hadn’t been suddenly broken and put back differently, although there were some noticeable alterations. And with the central character Abby, originally played by Harriet Gordon-Anderson, now being played by Amy Johnston, it was easy to see the play with new eyes.
Moving On Inc. takes a look at the consequences for both the living and the dead of covering up the truth. It puts two of its characters, Sam (Barnaby Pollock) and Ruth (Nicola Bartlett), at odds with each other between a rock (a cover-up) and a hard place (being dead), while Abby’s emotional well-being hangs in the balance. These conflicts create a three-way tension that is expressed very tangibly by the performers. But it’s not always clear that the extraordinary revelations built into the script are given the chance to land properly within the characters’ reality.
We couldn’t always clearly see that Abby and Sam were actively processing the fact that they’ve encountered a ghost. And not just any ghost, but a talking, three-dimensional ghost that Abby can put a fur coat on. And one that has a history with both of them, and a beef with Sam. They seemed to quite easily accept these given circumstances and revelations and ‘move on’ to the next bit of dialogue. Now whether this was due more to opening night speeds (which can have a considerable effect on a show’s pace), or whether this was due to demands of the script and staging is difficult to determine. However, the actors stayed well connected to each other, and it was apparent that they had clear objectives towards each other.
Bartlett’s presence is compelling, and she seems to enjoy playing inside this role. She and Johnson hint at a kinship their characters might have had under different circumstances, and their tug-of-war over whether to keep the past boxed up or not eventually becomes quite raw. Westall does have a knack for snappy dialogue and demonstrates her sharp wit, and she has laid her pieces out well on this play’s game board. Perhaps the game could benefit from allowing the players a little more space to breathe within each moment.
Sally Phipps adds a little more to the show in its revival with her set design, bringing the outdoors in with a few tree trunks adorned with objects from Abby’s past and a couple of hanging leafy branches. There’s a nice autumnal harmony in the visual palette that’s completed with lighting by Joe Lui.
Moving On Inc. is a strong debut effort from an emerging writer, and its inclusion in Subiaco Arts Centre’s Theatre Festival gives Westall the opportunity to have her work seen by a different audience in a less-hectic setting than its Fringe World run.
Moving On Inc. runs until 25 Jun at Subiaco Arts Centre. For tickets visit the Perth Theatre Trust website here.