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Local talent to the fore in The Audition


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Director Joh Hartog, former drama lecturer at Flinders University, has chosen Irish playwright James Johnson’s The Audition to showcase talented local actresses Krystal Brock and Clare Mansfield.

Mansfield plays Lauren, a young, sweet, innocent religious woman who is keen to be an actress and who nervously and tentatively presents herself for a theatre audition. Brock is Stella, a confident, experienced theatre director who uses the audition process to play mind games to psychologically test and challenge the young hopeful.

Johnson’s play is similar to Pinter’s revue sketch The Applicant, wherein an applicant for an undisclosed position is put through a number of horrific tests to determine if he is “suitable”.

I am sure some theatre directors have employed questionable tactics in the name of theatre or drama, to produce emotional performances from an actor or cast; and in acting schools, drama games are no doubt used to push actors to their limits. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture certain individuals exploiting their position of power to corrupt or exploit those who are vulnerable or desperate.

The Audition is a fusion of psycho drama and theatrical exploration, and we never learn why Stella forces Lauren to extremes or why she attempts to break her, other than to make her more resilient. The play is Pinteresque in its ambiguity and mystery, but it lacks the power and surprise of Pinter.

Brock and Mansfield are very capable actors and they are very good in their roles; they capture the mood swings of the play and the shifting power and control during the improvisational games. Occasionally, some overacting breaks the illusion of the psychological thriller and, in a play of supposed surprises, the new levels of torturous dramatic investigation seem reasonably predictable.

The Audition is filled with cliches and, if you were to ask a person to reveal their personal traumas, Lauren’s tick all the boxes: misunderstood teenager, OCD, angst, child abuse. Stella uses every possible element of torture to break her: alcohol, drugs, psychology, tying her to a chair. The torture devices do not shock, and the revelations do not create empathy for the victim.

Johnson has not written an absurd piece of theatre, which provides a certain liberty to take an audience to extremes, nor is his play an intense, gripping piece of hard-hitting naturalism. The Audition wavers between the two in style and does not reach a potential theatrical peak, but this production is worth a look to see two talented actresses pushing themselves and exploring their own capabilities.

The Audition is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre until October 3.

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