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The Incredible Here and Now

Photo by Brook Mitchell

The National Theatre of Parramatta, presents, THE INCREDIBLE HERE AND NOW, written for the stage by the novel writer, Felicity Castagna, at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. 13-22 July.

THE INCREDIBLE HERE AND NOW, is a 2013 novel by Felicity Castagna, and has been adapted for the stage by Ms Castagna, herself. Set in Parramatta and written in brief vignettes, it tells the story of 15 year old Michael, during a year when a car accident creates an intense year of sorting out the repercussions on the family, friends and community around him. Adjusting to new circumstances and charged and changing emotional maturations, whilst having to find the way through the continuing process of life.

The production, Designed by Isabel Hudson, has converted the playing space of the theatre into a Traverse one, with the audience seated on either-side, facing each other, with large projection screens, behind, using Video images to concrete images of the world of the play (Martin Kinnane) during the performance. Photographs and film (passing cars – including the idolised iconic mage of the white Pontiac Trans Am) are sophisticated, and the best part of this production. Besides, a stripped-down car body with seats, wheel and lights, that creates the rev-head environ of the world of Dom, Michael’s bigger-than-life brother that is the catalyst to all that happens in the play, there is a park space and the tower of the diving board of the local pool. The Sound Composition, Design, by Sean Van Doornum, also packages the experience with ease.

Jeneffa Soldatic and Wayne Harrison are the joint Directors of this work. Unfortunately, the seven actors: Libby Assiak, Caroline Brazier, Alex Cubis, Bardiya McKinnon, Ryan Peters, Sal Sharah and Olivia Simone, who, all but Mr McKinnon, play several roles, never appear to be in connection with each other. The experience of the work was of seven actors still trying to find traction to tell a story. It was never, completely, an in-tune ensemble of storytellers.

THE INCREDIBLE HERE AND NOW, as a novel, creates a sense of what it might be to live in a certain part of Parramatta, at a certain time. It’s atmosphere is visceral in its writing and the characters are vital as they deal with joy, tragedy, grief and the irresistible energies of the life forces of the species, in cautious courtship, school life, engaged with a myriad of multi-cultural and generational backgrounds. None of this was successfully created by this production. Whether there is difficulty in the adaptation by the writer I cannot discern as the acting was so disparate and disconnected in the experience in the theatre, that it was hard to realise. Surely the responsibility of the Directors. That the production was forced to postpone its Opening Night by a week heralded some misgivings. Problems were still evident.

This is another disappointing production from THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF PARRAMATTA.