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The Rep College - Summer of the 17th Doll

8th to 10th September 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Age an issue in choice of play

The Rep College: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, at New Greenham Arts, on Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10

Time passes: people change; circumstances change. Relationships change, and accepting these changes is part of growing up. In Ray Lawler's play, cane cutters Barney and Roo return to Melbourne for five months in the summer after seven months working in the North, as they have done for the last sixteen years. They have been the summer-time lovers of Olive and her friend Nancy, but this year Nancy has got married and Pearl is there to take over her role and, if all goes well, to team up with Barney.

But this summer, it doesn't work. The magic of the previous years has gone, and Olive can't come to terms with it.

There were strong performances from the four main actors. Lucia Barber, as Olive, was vivacious as she anticipated the return of the men, turning to disillusionment as time wore on. Laura Hickinson was the uptight Pearl, the newcomer who didn't really fit in. Tom Williams and Dan Creasey, as Barney and Roo, worked well together as their blokeish matiness buckled under the strains of recent events.

Layal Alsabaa gave a very natural performance as Bubba, the young woman somewhat in awe of her more experienced friends. Lulu Miller was unremittingly fierce as Emma, the mother, only showing her gentler side at the end, but she brought some humour to the play. Robin March was a macho Johnnie Dowd, at odds with Roo.

Written over 50 years ago, this is one of the most important plays in the history of Australian theatre. But was it a good choice for The Rep College? All except one of the characters were 40 or older; by its nature The Rep College has actors who are about 20 years old. This doesn't necessarily matter, but I felt in this case that it did. Important to the plot is that Olive, an older woman, has aspects of her character that are stuck in childish behaviour, and for me this didn’t work with such a young actor.

Jack Lovegrove and David Tudor directed the versatile and talented cast, bringing us a play that is not often seen in this country.