Centralia

Mon 20th – Fri 24th February 2012

reviews

Chelsey Stuyt

at 10:03 on 21st Feb 2012

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“Centralia” is built on a coal fire, which burns away the foundations of the town and all the people who live there. Walking in, the audience is met by the actors doing double-duty and ushering people in under the guise of good old American hospitality. However, by the end of the play the cracks caused by the fire are shown, not just in the buildings, but in the relationships between the characters as well.

The good: Superbolt Theatre (trained at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris) is a professional troupe and it shows. Creating believable characters in 60 minutes is not an easy task - the devil is in the details – but they manage it effortlessly. The power of these performances lies in the minor mannerisms of the characters; from Simon Maeder's absent-minded fingering of his red flannel shirt when nervous, to Andreas Thoresen's tongue clicking during dance sequences. Even Maria Askew's slightly flailing arms fit with her character's personality. From “rhythm club” to recounting the departure of friends, neighbours, and loved ones, the actors showed a commitment to their characters that brought a sense of heart and down-home love to the show, without irony. It was the first time that I'd really enjoyed a dance sequence (silver foil backdrop and all) and it was because the characters were being portrayed honestly and without any sense of awkward humour. You are not meant to laugh at these folks, you are meant to love them and laugh with them – and you do.

The bad: The accents. All four actors were playing with slightly different accents but the most noticeable was Maria Askew's “Jennyfer Spencer”. What began as a generic mid-western accent began to float around by the halfway point, running down to Georgia before nipping up to Chicago for a few minutes. Though not crucial, this was quite distracting.

The biggest problem was the ending. The entire show had been built on the premise that these were four small-town Americans putting on a show about their home. The five minutes of silent interpretive dance at the end shattered that illusion and seemed at odds with the rest of the performance. While on an intellectual level I appreciated this “meta” moment and the “stepping outside the box” that it allowed for, I felt that the heart of the play and the honesty of the the characters was lost. After trading so heavily on the power of the characters, it was disconcerting to see it thrown away for a few minutes of well-choreographed silent dance.

If you chop off the last few minutes of the play, you have an excellent show with strong performances (Frode Gjerlow's Norman really steals the show), which really gives you a snapshot of a foursome trying to survive with both optimism and honesty. Its a show about home and heart. Go see it.

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