The Wishing Well - Two Braids Collective

‘The Wishing Well’ // Brisbane Sci-Fi Theatre Festival

‘The Wishing Well’ was dynamic.

Imagine being trapped in a room with your ex-best friend, lover, enemy, the bossiest of people and a frustratingly neutral person. Add in a post-apocalyptic society and you have ‘The Wishing Well’, a hilarious and equally disquieting show about five teens and their suicide mission to the ‘outside world’.

In the world of ‘The Wishing Well’ 16-year olds are trained in armed combat. When they turn 21, five people are selected to venture beyond the compound and discover if life is sustainable. Five teenagers with wildly different personalities happen upon a mysterious well in an abandoned building. There were lockers on the walls with each of their names on them and notes appeared in their pockets giving them the “rules” of the well. Either they all drink from the well and receive “their deepest desires” or they throw in the coin and become free. Whichever path they choose there are dire consequences.

The story initially came across as fairly similar to other Sci-fi narratives, however, what set this production apart was the commitment and genuine emotion the five young actors displayed on stage. Their chemistry, friendship, and animosity were palpable from the audience and, like any good piece of theatre, took the spectators on an emotional journey from start to finish.

The production was linear, with audiences following along in real time. This helped to mount tension within the audience and it was through the carefully constructed script (written by Samantha Bull) that the peaks and troughs within the narrative were found. The lighting and stage plot was simplistic, with minimal changes. The actors were able to effectively shift the mood within the production and maintain momentum without the aid of sound and lighting effects. While the performance was effective without these elements, it may have been interesting to see the impact of a soundscape on the ‘world’ of the play.

Emotional delivery was where this production truly shone, to the credit of the intelligently written script and talented actors. Peter Wood as Eli was easy to love, making his emotional breakdown towards the end of the production even more startling to audiences. Eli’s girlfriend, Tilda, played by the powerful Tiahnee Solien-Bowles, was the leader of the group. However, despite Tilda’s strength, audiences were able to witness a vulnerability that was honest and raw.

Isaac, played by Harry Harms, was the quietly confident one of the group. Harm’s acting was subtle and considered and his emotional intelligence was particularly notable within the ensemble. Erika was the sarcastic, tough and hilarious character in the group. Shanay de Marco had the audience in stitches, her character was well constructed with one of the most distinct character arches in the production. This role asked a lot from a young actor and de Marco certainly delivered.

Darcy Jones as Alex had one of the most intense emotional performances within the show and Jones handled the content with skill and sensitivity. While Alex initially appeared to be the ‘tough guy’, his turmoil was soon uncovered as the audience learned of his sister’s tragic death within the compound. Alex’s breakdown and subsequent steely attitude toward Tilda, after he discovered she was responsible for his sister’s death, is a credit to Jones’ skill as an actor.

There were moments that could have been tightened within the production. While most pauses were effective for emotional impact, some hung for a little too long. Also, while stillness is important within a production, some moments of unmoving quiet bordered on becoming dead space on stage.

‘The Wishing Well’ took audiences on a journey that went beyond the narrative and entered a different cosmos of human emotion. It posed questions of forgiveness, retribution, friendship, and relationship in an intelligent and well-constructed script with all the right twists and turns. The audience left hoping that each character would find their happiness in a world that was set against them.

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