‘Checked Out’ // Inscape Assembly

‘Checked Out’ was electrifying.

Welcome to Greenmart, where the Karens run wild, wannabe creatives line the shelves, and the rule of not falling in love with your co-workers is undeniably broken!

‘Checked Out’ is a fresh musical presented by Inscape Assembly that offers a glimpse into the inner lives of several young employees navigating the challenges of both the modern retail landscape and the individuals unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. From Alice, the new kid on the block, to Jet, who has weathered it all, from the lovestruck Harry to the perennially lost Lara,”Checked Out is a comedic musical that resonates with anyone who’s toiled in customer service and nearly lost their sanity in the process.

Caleb Bartlett’s lighting design was simple yet effective, employing basic backlighting and front spotlights. While the lighting scheme remained fairly straightforward, it did succeed at times in setting the scene’s mood and enhancing the musical numbers. Tess Matthews’ sound direction deserves commendation, managing old wireless microphones in a non-acoustic venue is no small feat, yet Matthews executed it with minimal hitches. Special recognition should also go to Scarlett Hughes (Stage Manager), Hollie Pianta (ASM), and David Wotherspoon (ASM) for their fast transitions, which elevated the brisk pacing of the production. The creative team’s set design expertly emulated a shopping mall ambiance, complete with shelves, registers, and a long deli counter all with a green theme that aligns with the Greenmart shopping centre.

Haley Meekan’s direction was natural and dynamic. While occasional moments featured characters with their backs to the audience or sightlines obscured by the set, each character felt authentic and devoid of over-characterization, a challenging balance to achieve. Meekan masterfully drew the audience into feeling as though they, too, were clocking in at the store.

The compositions, a collaborative effort by Max Berger, Arina Dara, Mak Harris, and Harley Meekan, was impressive. The pop-rock-inspired musical score boasted depth and diversity. In a landscape where many new musicals can feel over written, this creative team produced standout songs that delved into each character’s psyche. While some of the songs seemed slightly short in this production, extending their length could be warranted.

Mak Harris’ lyrics were exquisitely crafted, with a particular highlight being the 11th-hour song sung by Alice just before her abortion. The lyrics skillfully immersed the audience in Alice’s emotional turmoil, silencing the room in a moment of connection, a testament to Harris’ lyrical prowess.

The book, co-written by Phoebe Quinn, Haley Meekan, Mak Harris, and Arina Dara, left room for improvement. Marketed as a comedic musical, several jokes, especially in the first act, fell flat. Despite this shortfall, the overall writing weaved a nuanced narrative that pushed the boundaries of the musical genre. Additionally, further refinement of Act One could mitigate its sluggish pacing, as its hour and a half duration felt overly long for an opening act.

Special attention must be paid to the exceptional band that formed the production’s musical backbone. Alex Wilson (piano), Tristan Hargreaves (drummer), Kyle Neilan (bass), and Grace Clarkson (guitar) united to breathe life into the music.

Cameron Grimmett’s portrayal of Alice was understated and captivating. Grimmett breathed life into a character that the audience grew to adore and empathise with, particularly during the poignant 11th-hour number. Their exceptional vocal ability was evident throughout the production.

Jamie Dickman’s depiction of Harry exuded warmth and charisma. Playing the endearing, teddy bear-like character, Dickman crafted a persona that resonated with the audience, especially in his pursuit of the affections of Hannah.

Gillian Thompson’s portrayal of Hannah radiated strength and independence. As the grocery store’s head manager, Hannah’s desire for seamless operations clashes with her instant vulnerability with Harry. Thompson navigated this character with grace, allowing the audience to truly feel her highs and lows.

Arina Dara’s rendition of Lara emerged as a production highlight. Dara seamlessly blended humour and depth, with their character’s queerness seamlessly integrated rather than forced. Dara’s portrayal beautifully showcased the power of queer love.

Maddie Martin’s portrayal of Jessica oozed sass and complexity. Initially positioned as the despised boss’ daughter, Jessica’s assistance to Alice during her abortion reveals a softer side. Martin skilfully depicted this character’s development, ultimately winning over both the characters and the audience.

Joel Dow’s portrayal of Jet stood out prominently. Dow’s performance was a masterclass, delivering impeccable vocals, acting, and character depth. Dow’s depiction of the enigmatic guitarist Jet captivated everyone’s hearts.

The ensemble, featuring Phoebe Quinn, Mark Richardson, and Torin Cook, contributed to the production’s well-rounded sound. Each actor embodied their respective roles with finesse, enhancing crucial dimensions of the overall production.

‘Checked Out’ performed until August 26, 2023 at Methyr Uniting Church. Visit Inscape Assembly’s Facebook page for more.

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