‘Sunflowers’ was sunny.
Some say aging is a gift, for others it’s a curse. One thing is for sure, old age is an intricate journey; one that was explored in detail by Sunnybank Theatre Group’s‘Sunflowers’.
‘Sunflowers’ is a stimulating showcase that explores eight short stories and features performers from the Shining Lights Seniors Theatre Workshop Group. Each tale explores the triumphs and hardships faced by seniors, and jumps in settings; from backyards to libraries, churches to 1920s Brighton, 1950s America to a retirement village and finally, to a French restaurant.
Though there are plenty of quick scene changes, none of these felt prolonged or clunky thanks to Greg Day’s slick lighting and sound. Music was used as a transitional tool and was a nice atmosphere builder. Stage Manager Christine Buchholz had the difficult task of quickly changing sets in a timely manner with her crew. The backstage and technical team kept the pace alive during these transitions. For the key scenes, Day’s subtle use of lighting and colours helped each piece feel unique, and the costumes by Barbara Phillips were simple yet effective.
Director Nerida Day masterfully weaved the eight stories together, ensuring they were linked but not too similar. Day employed an array of comedy styles and made each dramatic moment fresh with wondrous pacing and natural blocking throughout. Day’s efforts made this production shine.
The ensemble tackled the challenge of playing multiple roles across the stories with fabulous conviction. Though vocal projection at the start of the show was a little light on, the actors powered through and gave the audience an enticing experience as it warmed up. Each performer used organic accents throughout and handled the themes of love, death, abuse and jealousy respectfully. The true highlight was the cast of the black comedy ‘Not My Cup Of Tea’. Katie McKeen, Judith Drew and Gail Payne were all hilarious in their roles, leaving the audience in stitches with their deep-south troubles when trying to kill off their elderly mother using a poisoned biscuit.
On the surface, ‘Sunflowers’ was entertainment and escapism. Dig a little deeper and one finds that when the sun isn’t shining, sunflowers turn to each other. A more analytical dive and reflection on this showcase reveals a glimpse into the beauty that is old age.
Sunnybank Theatre Group’s ‘Sunflowers’ blooms until Saturday, 14 August 2021. For tickets, visit their website.