If you’re anything like me, walking into a girls changing room will give you war flashbacks, and that’s exactly what walking into Cellar Theatre to see Play On felt like.
With pink benches on both sides of the stage, posters for societies and events, graffiti, and menstrual products plastered on the walls, the audience is immediately transported to a more stylised change room. Amelia Vogelsang’s set design was an almost perfect replica: you could nearly hallucinate the mixed scent of sweat, deodorant, and perfume.
Play On follows the dynamics between a recreational netball team as they make their way through a local competition. Andie (Victoria Georges) — who is moving into the city for uni from a small rural town — joins in hopes of making friends, and slowly finds herself a new family in the company of Bridget (Abby Bobkowski), Cathy (Aqsa Suryana), Beatrice (Jadzia Stronell), Teagan (Zara Podmore), Stella (Ruby Zupp), Georgia (Nasrin Keast) and Maddy (Alexis Nguyen). Just when Andie finally feels accepted, team members start to disappear, leaving a bloody trail.
Victoria Georges and Abby Bobkowski’s performance complimented each other’s rocky start of their relationship. Georges’ timid and shy characterisation was delightful against Bobkowski’s intimidating and bold behaviour. Bobkowski’s vocal projection was especially impressive, nearly making me jump out of my seat to join in on the team warm up. A particularly funny moment involved Bobkowski “fake acting” trying to disprove that she had failed drama in Year 8.
The use of shadow work was an especially creative and fun addition to the show, creating a valuable division between the matches on court behind the screen versus the change room on the main stage. The changes in hues by lighting designer Luna Ng indicating different games was an appreciated and aesthetically pleasing touch.
Jadzia Stronell and Zara Podmore’s chemistry as Beatrice and Teagan was impossible to miss. At first, you sense some form of twincest, but it becomes clear that their similarity and closeness comes from their loving relationship. Their quick dialogue bounces between them as they finish each other’s sentences, adding to their attachment. I share in the audience’s disappointment in their lack of embrace by the end of the show.
The comedy sprinkled throughout the show was punchy and timely, with nothing feeling stretched out or excessively repeated, which is a difficult task achieved by writer and director Gemma Hudson. A favourite touch was Nasrin Keast as Georgia, with scenes reminiscent of Lilly Onakuramara in Pitch Perfect: with so little said, so much humour was added.
Choreographed sequences such as the team “Slayer” dance and the recurring planned smoothness of the murderer’s assassinations were amusing pieces of the show. The pitter patter warm up, consisting of running on the same spot and burpees, was a chucklesome and nostalgic addition in the play. Similarly the mention of having to take off your earrings and cutting your nails was another relatable netball reference.
Mali Lung’s performance as the Ref was thoroughly enjoyable. Lung’s monologue reminiscing on her broken marriage was comically delivered, perfectly added to with the provocative use of the netball. Her vocal delivery reminded me much of my own Netball coach from high school. Though the Ref was mostly heard on the court behind screens, it would have been interesting to see a greater interaction between her and the netball team on stage.
By the end of the performance, Aqsa Suryana steals the show. Her change in character was impressively delivered. The instant switch from sympathy and kindness to a more sinister character was executed impeccably, topped off with the most convincing nefarious laugh I have ever heard.
It has to be noted that the SFX team, made up of Adele Beaumont, Cedar Podmore and Madeleine Lewis, did a fantastic job of creating a realistic and gory ankle gash on Ruby Zupp, with exposed bone and dripping blood.
The audience’s reaction was an enjoyable consequence of the show, with added laughter and gasps — especially during Stronell and Podmore’s final conversation — it built on the atmosphere of the show. It was especially wholesome seeing the entire POC revue cast come out to support their cast member Georges, showering her in support.
As a former goal defence, Play On was everything. It reflects the realness of finding friends, love and jealousy amongst one another, and the familial bond that is created. From bounce passes to butchery, Play On is a show that encompasses comedy, drama, mystery and netball in a perfect combination.
Play On will be performing at the Cellar Theatre until the 12th of August.