HOTHOUSE Studio Ensemble’s staging of Emma Gibson’s new take on the Pyjama Girl mystery emerges as a visually appealing, fast-paced confection involving a clutch of developing young performers.
By employing vaudeville style, Gibson neatly short-circuits the impact of this story’s horrendous detail.
At the same time, her approach guarantees audience involvement as the atmosphere of 1930s Australia is evoked through speech, music, song and glitzy chorus-line routines for girls in spangled costumes.
Central to the show’s verve is Brendan McFarlane’s personable MC, a genial and persuasive figure who introduces various people, offers comments and asides and suavely endorses such uplifting products as Berlei and Bex.
McFarlane inhabits the role to the manner born, subtly managing to send himself up in the process.
Visually, the production is a delight, aligning Sophie Woodward’s sets and costumes, Rob Scott’s lighting and Rose Cox’s choreography.
Throw in a touch of puppetry, some sleight of hand and a dash or two of 1930s music from piano, side drum and Victoria Stanmore’s sweetly played violin and the recipe is complete and satisfying.
Bearing in mind this is a studio performance from young players in process of learning their craft, The Pyjama Girl demonstrates a keen sense of ensemble and a generally secure approach. The nine performers enjoy their responsibility, and on opening night the audience responded warmly.
Director Travis Dowling secures a cracking momentum from his cast, together with slickness in ringing the changes between solo, duo and ensemble deployment.
My one concern is the matter of clarity in projection. Especially with a script that’s littered with fine detail, we need to catch everything.
On opening night, notably in the early stages, vocal softness often surfaced and, on occasion, the side drum obscured lines of dialogue.
Rehearsing in an empty theatre is very different to performing when the theatre’s full and sound absorption comes to the forefront.
This is the single aspect of a joyous, quickly paced production that needs to be addressed.
Is the Pyjama Girl’s identity revealed?
Find out by catching the show.