‘Almost, Maine’ was heartwarming.
Love shared, love lost, love rekindled, changed love, friendship love and messy love all played an intrinsic role in Company ‘22 GCGU production ‘Almost, Maine’ playing as part of the Anywhere Festival.
‘Almost, Maine’, is a story about love, loss and extraordinary occurrences that all take place under the night sky in a little town called Almost in Maine. While the production is split into 11 separate stories, all are connected by the common thread of love. The production is a tapestry of talented young actors who brought the heartfelt stories to life. Each moment was a slice of life and, although the stories were set in the real world, they had a somewhat magical quality about them. From a couple ‘returning their love’ in garbage bags, to a crazy name coincidence and a boy unable to feel pain until he felt love, every story had an element that stepped away from reality.
Mount Cootha Planetarium is a venue deeply woven into the childhood of most Brisbane kids. Child-like wonder is so perfectly captured in the mesmerising constellations projected on the enormous dome and Company ‘22 QCGU used the beauty of the space to its full capacity. While each scene happened under the same sky, the planetarium transformed from dazzling constellations, to the Northern Lights and a variety of other lighting states to mark the telling of a new story. Technical Officers Peter Frankland and Duncan Waldron had their work cut out for them in a space not traditionally used as a theatre. Entirely lit from above, the use of hand held lanterns was necessary to ensure the faces of the actors were visible and the delicate balance of atmospheric low light and ensuring the action could be seen on stage was well handled.
It truly felt as if you had stepped into a new world. Gone was the proscenium and actor/audience separation. Sitting in the round with multiple entrances, the crowd was a fly on the wall to the unfolding stories on stage. This stage state allowed directors, Rosa Woodrow Kyle, Stella Peterson and Alex Porteous to play with more than just the round. Actors frequently used the walkways to continue the action and clearly positioned things outside the audience’s view which made the blocking natural and uncomplicated.
While there was magic in the unpredictable nature of the script, some moments seemed a bit too left of field and pulled audiences out of the action. It may have been more powerful to let the stories conclude naturally. Particular examples were physically falling over when two friends were ‘falling in love’, the lost shoe falling from the sky and after a girl tells a man her whole love story, she eventually realises she has been talking to her ex the whole time.
All the young creatives were powerful in their roles and captured the truth and heart in every story. The trust exhibited on stage between actors was a joy to watch and made the believability of the love stories all the more natural. Isabella Berlese and Mitchell Booth created a beautiful bond in ‘Her Heart’ which told the story of a lady trespassing on a man’s property hoping to watch the Northern Lights. Both Berlese and Booth had a natural comedy in their performance and captured the awkward energy perfectly. It is difficult to fit such a significant character journey into such a short period of time but the pair captured their character’s whirlwind spirits perfectly.
Another highlight was Ethan Waters and Ruby Gudenswager in ‘This Hurts’. Waters sensitively and intelligently captured his neurodivergent character’s journey through navigating his ‘first love’. The repartee and quick dialogue between Waters and Gudenswager helped to drive the scene and created a natural pace between characters.
Brendan Kater was grounded in his performance during ‘Sad and Glad’. A typical ‘bloke’ with a beer, Kater gave his character permission to feel when his character’s ex, played by Georgia Faa, entered the room. Quiet in character, Faa captured her character’s innocence and played off Kater’s character with skill.
Emily Moore and Tyrone Crowe in ‘Getting It Back’ played young lovers on the verge of a breakup. The energy disparity between the two actors was effective in communicating their differing approaches to the scenario.
Nathaniel Crossinggum and Dugald Lowis absolutely shone in their scene ‘They Fell’. Perfectly comically timed and sensitive where called for, both Crossinggum and Lowis found the truth as they navigated their way out of the friend zone.
Rosa Woodrow Kyle and Alexander Porteous perfectly captured the years of arguments, joy and love in their marriage in ‘Where It Went’ while Alexander Swanston and Ella Warner captured the years lost in ‘Story of Hope’.
Stella Peterson and Jordan Stott were charming in their scene ‘Seeing the Thing’. The friendship and energy captured by both actors was key in translating the story of friends turned lovers.
Finally, Sky Fellman and Ethan Waters traveled all the way around the world and back again, bookending the show in a beautiful tale of two friends coming closer together. The purity and magic of their story under the Northern Lights was the perfect way to introduce and conclude the production.
Two of the most magical things in the world collided during ‘Almost, Maine’, the magic of stories and the magic of the night sky. It’s opportunities like the Anywhere Festival which encourages the dreaming of new and interesting venues for theatre. ‘Almost, Maine’ reminded audiences to find the love and beauty in everything, even if it’s just looking up at the night sky.
‘Almost, Maine’ performed for one night only at the Brisbane Planetarium on May 19th, 2022. For more upcoming shows visit the Anywhere Festival website.