After the cancellation of their production of Jasper in Deadland just two weeks out from opening, City Theatre had to think fast about how they would keep the spirit of independent theatre alive during the pandemic. Project Interlude is their initiative to write, cast, rehearse, and perform a new short musical in one week like a jumper cable to the heart of Sydney theatre.
This week’s production Collisions was inspired by the theme “kaleidoscope” as voted by the City Theatre community and tells the story of four people whose lives were changed by a moment they all witnessed on an otherwise ordinary weekday. The book by Sarah Campbell, music by Renae Goodman and Emma Young, and lyrics by Young set the characters as separate entities with complicated and frustrating lives all converging on a coffee shop where a car accident rewrites everything they’ve been musing about until then. The premise is trite but perhaps a reminder of the fragility and unpredictability of life is exactly what an isolation-fatigued audience needs right now.
As the characters make their way to the coffee shop, they’re given an opportunity to sing out their current obstacles and future fears. Aarin Starkey’s character is a carefree eccentric using his excessive coin collection to dictate how he spends his day, wandering from the laundromat to the arcade to a cafe. Skye Beker’s character thought she was doing alright until a meeting with an old friend threw into relief how little she’s changed since they last met. Both Andrew Jackson and Brooklyn Newey’s characters seem rather stuck; Jackson in a dead end corporate job and Newey with no real direction for her life after graduation.
Direction from Jo Finnis works well to keep the focus on the music which was casual and easy, in keeping with the mundanity of the characters’ world. In particular, Beker’s performance gave interesting depth to a character lost in the gap between reality and past potential with a touching sense of quasi-regret. It would have been more engaging to see more interaction between the characters but the structure of four converging story lines expounded in just half an hour prevented much more than solos until the final number.
The set design consisting of broken and mosaicked CDs mounted on white boxes was a surprisingly detailed reference to the “kaleidoscope” inspiration. Shifting colours from the refracted stage lights gave some visual intrigue to the simple staging but also echoed the butterfly effect underlining the production’s message.
Despite its well-worn plot, Collisions offered a solid combination of clean performances, capable music, and consistent design in an impressive time frame. For the theatre-starved audience members viewing online and in person, that’s more than enough! Hopefully, when theatres are able to reopen properly, City Theatre will get an opportunity to demonstrate their skills to the full.
Collisions ran at Flight Path Theatre on August 8th and streamed online live as part of Project Interlude
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