REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s SILVERTOP ASH

Raising the profound issues

By Myron My

Upon walking out of the theatre after having seen Wayne Tunk’s Silvertop Ash, I was left feeling quite conflicted as to my thoughts on this production. I want to like it and say it is powerful and important theatre because of its focus on gay youth suicide, which absolutely needs more coverage and attention but at the same time, there were some intrinsic problems with the show that stop me from feeling so.

Silvertop Ash

Most of my issues with Silvertop Ash arose from the script. The dialogue with the characters often felt forced, and it seemed that everyone was nothing but a mere cog in the machine to tell the story that Tunks wants to tell rather than the characters being allowed to tell their own story. The play was written in 2007 and perhaps now, eight years later, audiences have progressed in terms of what we expect from these types of narratives.

The shocks and twists that were included could unfortunately be anticipated well before they occurred, and the stock character are familiar from a multitude of film, TV shows and stage productions to the point where they stop being real and vital: the macho father who is disgusted his son would rather read Austen than watch a car race for example, and the homophobic bully who harbors a secret of his own.

However, there are some good performances in the play, especially by James Coley as our protagonist Hamish, and Perri Cummings as Penny, Hamish’s mother. The scenes they share are poignant, heartfelt and often imbued with subtle humour. Despite not being overly convinced by Geoff Wallis’s portrayal as Hamish’s father, in the final few scenes he is in he came through with the goods and took my breath away with how powerful his performance then was.

Designer Hannah Gott has done a great job of using and filling the large space the show was performed in and yet was able to maintain the intimate setting required for the characters to function together. The backdrop projection of the town was a brilliant touch that built on the environment and remained there as a constant reminder of where we were.

Silvertop Ash is an all-too-tragic story of bullying and suicide amongst gay youths. Discussion needs to be maintained and promoted in order to have any effect in overcoming the rising statistics of youth suicide – and the show must be congratulated for doing that. However, as a piece of theatre, I ultimately wanted more from the writing and more from the performances.

Silvertop Ash is being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park
Season: Until 31 January | Tues – Sat 8:00pm
Tickets: $25 /$21 Conc
Bookings: midsumma.org.au

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