Core Theatre Productions present a lovely production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler. Set in 1950’s Australia, the story shows two burly cane cutters Reuben (a.k.a ‘Roo’) and Arthur (a.k.a ‘Barney’) returning to Carlton for the summer and to spend it making merry with Olive and Nancy. Nancy it is revealed has gotten married a few months prior, so Olive has got her co-worker Pearl Cunningham to join her. However, it becomes clear throughout the play thatthings are not as they once were. Could this mark the end of their summers together? Watched over by her mother Emma and the baby faced next door neighbour Kathie (otherwise known as ‘Bubba’) this show depicts the horrible loss of youth that we all undoubtedly have to face at some point!
The first act is a little slow, mainly due to the amount of exposition being explained rather than actual action taking place, but both the energy and the story pick up in the second act. The final scene being a very tense and pinnacle moment! The relationships between the characters are very strong, particularly between Olive (Grace Hodgkinson) and Roo (Tony South) who from their first reunion establish a loving bond. There are also some stand out performances from Monica Odysseos and Francesca Pratt, one as a fierce and fiery Pearl Cunningham and the other as a no-nonsense Emma Leach.
The direction, from Arwen Beaton, keeps to the naturalistic style that the suits this type of play so well. This is complimented by a fantastically realistic set. It looks exactly like a quaint little 50’s home, complete with various clutter and, of course, the kewpie dolls from which the show gets its title. The lighting is also used very well to make a clear contrast between night and day. There is also some great effects used to create realistic flashes of fireworks. All in all this really helps to transport you into the world of the play.
I feel some Australian accents could’ve been utilised to complete the realistic feel. However, this did not take away from what was a well thought out and sensitive production. I would highly recommend this production for anyone who enjoys classic storylines and naturalistic drama, as Core Theatre Productions have definitely struck the right balance.