The Journey Girl by Anthony Crowley
Presented by the Tasmanian Theatre Company and the Festival of Voices. Directed by Kris Stewart.
Review by Luke Ogden
There can be little doubt after witnessing the Tasmanian Theatre Company’s production of The Journey Girl that the state of theatre in the Apple Isle is alive and well. The opening show of the 2012 season may be characterised by its overall lack of scale; however this production served to press the point that size is certainly not a determinative factor in terms of quality.
This one-woman musical introduces the audience to Annie (Nicole Simms), a bold young woman from Melbourne who has set off to conquer the world. Arriving in Europe, she has survived a year of extraordinary encounters with an array of characters. The beginning of the show sees Annie having swallowed a bad sausage from the Berlin Museum, and as a result of the food poisoning induced delirium she becomes lost and comes across a cavernous space, not dissimilar to an alley. She then recounts her exploits of the preceding year which have brought her to this point with the helpful aid of song.
Within the set designed by Jill Munro, it was quite easy to feel at home – a strange thing, given that the set was manufactured from a wall plastered with posters and graffiti. The multitude of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and the use of candles created a warm atmosphere which encouraged feelings of security and comfort within the small space. This use of candlelight was also employed to emphasise solitude in the more reflective and sombre parts of the performance. This, in addition to the enclosed environment of the Theatre Royal Backspace facilitated the closeness of Annie to the audience, which had the effect of showing her to be both a lively but also exposed character.
The one-person show would appear to be a breed of performance all on its own; this means the performers suitable for such a role amount to a small group. However, Nicole Simms fulfilled the high expectations which are inevitably placed on an actor in a solo role; her ability to portray a complete spectrum of emotions from excitable to vulnerable sustained the energy of the performance, which clearly retained the attention of the audience. Rather than being allowed to maintain their position as passive voyeurs, Annie engaged with the audience and treated them with trepidation at times, while boldly creating a spectacle of herself at other moments. This ability to travel between personas was a fundamental one, given the nature of the storyline – Annie’s internal examination of her journey of self, which was not always a pleasant tale.
Amanda Hodder’s work as musical director and piano accompanist was excellent; the music which accompanied Annie’s tales traversed many genres, including rock, jazz and opera. Again, Simms appeared to cover all bases as she encouraged the audience to sing along during one of the more upbeat numbers.
Eventually, Annie sees her way clear to leave the peculiar situation she finds herself in, to continue her journey as we all do. While it is an inherently simple story, the Tasmanian Theatre Company’s first musical retains emotional depth while maintaining a positive spin on the journey that we all take, albeit in varying ways. In short, there can be little doubt that Kris Stewart’s production has set a high standard for coming shows in the TTC’s 2012 season to follow.
Season runs from the 26 April – 13 May.