‘Two Weeks with the Queen’ was wholesome.
While the world is unable to freely travel, Javeenbah Theatre Company took their audience all the way to Sydney, London and back again in their newest production, ‘Two Weeks with the Queen’. With a small cast of both Javeenbah royalty and a few new faces, the performers took the audience on an adventure of laughter, empathy and explored hard-hitting issues that impact every human being.
Set in 1986, ‘Two Weeks with the Queen’ follows the story of the young and rambunctious Colin Mudford (Megan Frener), whose brother has just been diagnosed with cancer. After being sent away to live with his aunt and uncle in England, Colin hatches a plan to contact the Queen and find the best medical treatment for his brother. What follows is a story of learning to manage loss and finding strength even when all hope seems lost.
Director Trevor Love aimed for a minimalistic approach in both set and technical direction, “thus encouraging the audience to stay with the character and dialogue to follow the story,” said Love in the director’s notes. This design decision was largely effective in that audiences were able to easily distinguish the setting of each scene and set changes were minimised.
The palace gates were placed upstage left with a scrim in the centre, hiding a bedroom scene and a blank wall on stage right. It may have been interesting to explore placing the palace gates upstage centre and using them as a focal point of the production. Gates are a liminal space – a world between worlds – and can represent the crossing from one path to another. As Colin grows, matures and learns, he steps across his own divide in his personal development. Through a simple set design change, the stage could have become significantly more visually balanced and created more poignant moments.
The scrim element of the set was visually engaging and was an excellent choice to separate the stage,creating distinct areas. A lot of fun elements can be achieved with scrims through interesting lighting and blocking choices, however, the full breadth of potential was unfortunately not explored within this production. Audiences were left wondering the purpose of this set design choice, aside from creating a division of space. It would have been interesting to see the space used as a type of lightbox, where muted action could occur in the background while the primary focus was pulled on the foreground. This could have been particularly useful when Denis was breaking out of the house.
Lighting designer Colin Crow effectively used his medium to focus attention on various areas of the stage. A particularly impactful moment was the conclusion of Act I as Colin was caught on the gates of the palace. The tight spot with a blue wash created drama and added to the tension of the moment. Sound design by Mikaela Murphy was minimal yet intelligently implemented. The muted television and plane sound effects were well placed and added ambiance and context to the action on stage.
‘Two Weeks with the Queen’ is an emotionally fueled and intense production under the label of a comedy. There needs to be an ebb and flow to help the humour land and the difficult moments hit home. Love did well to manage the heightened emotions and provide direction which supported the actors and their characters’ intent. Stephen Nash as Man 1 and Claire Thorne as Mum/Aunty Iris delivered sensitive and believable performances. Nash was tasked with a particularly heavy role, however, he handled it with a level of professionalism and vulnerability that was refreshing to watch. Thorne did an exemplary job in swapping between the emotionally distraught Mum and the comedic Iris. With flawless accents and distinct characterisation, she was a standout within the production.
Frener took on the challenging role of Colin Mudford and did an impressive job of not only handling the significant developmental story arc of the character, but navigating the fact that she was a woman playing a young boy. Frener’s physicality and vocal inflections were impressive and largely solidified the rambunctious personality of Colin. At times the character veered into a pantomime style of acting, which could have been tapered back to ensure moments weren’t over acted.
Rounding out the cast were Brandon Stevens, Chris Hawkins, Nathan French, Jake Goodall and Gillian Crow, who all did an impressive job of finding differences in their characterisation as they moved from one personality to the next. The teamwork and comradery on stage was refreshing to witness and the joy certainly translated to the audience.
Community theatre is a beautiful place to watch art because every single person is at the theatre purely for the love of it. This passion was clearly evident on the Javeenbah stage at ‘Two Weeks with the Queen’. While certain elements could have been improved, the heart and spirit of the show shone through and gave audiences moments to ponder, smiles to share and a lovely evening supporting the local theatre community.
‘Two Weeks with the Queen’ runs until Saturday, 29 May 2021 at Javeenbah Theatre. For more information visit the Javeenbah Theatre Company website.
Photos by TTL Photography