Reamus Youth Theatre, at Maitland Repertory Theatre
Friday and Saturday (last shows)
AMERICAN playwright Maura Campbell looks in Dreamtime at the dreams people have about the life they’d like to have, and the realities they actually experience or impose on others. The play arose from events in 2001 in the region where she lived, when two teenage boys who were intent on migrating to what they saw as an adventurous Australia killed a husband and wife pair of middle-aged university professors who caught them robbing their home.
This Australian premiere staging of Dreamtime by Maitland’s Reamus Youth Theatre keeps watchers engrossed as the story moves about in time, and even though they know from early in the work that the crime will be committed and briefly see people such as psychiatrists and police who are questioning the boys after the murders, the actual encounter between the two pairs isn’t seen until well into the tale. By then, the audience has come to know much about the backgrounds and dreams of Willy (Conagh Punch), the aggressively more demanding of the two, and the reticent Noah (Robert Lewis), who, even though he is keen to go to Australia, is nervous about entering people’s homes and robbing them. And the professors, who are largely seen preparing a dinner party, are a colourful couple who frequently show their affection for each other in their words and actions, with geologist husband Joerg (Alastair Anderberg) assisting Russian-language lecturer wife Greta (Millie Chorlton) in climbing a mountain in one amusing background scene.
The other actors, Alex Simpson and Emma Ure, play multiple roles, among them parents, shopkeepers and truck drivers, and continually move swiftly from one character to the next, with different items of costuming and, on one occasion, wearing kangaroo heads. And in one scene an observer talks about the belief of Australian Aborigines that the world was created by their ancestors in the world’s Dreamtime, with the boys next shown imagining that they are on the way to Australia. It is a moving moment.
Director Zac Smith, who is making his debut in that role, has the audience sitting around the action, with a set at the rear that has a shed-like structure alongside a room with kitchen fittings on one side, and both effectively becoming many different places. Overall, this is an impressive directorial debut.