Arts Review

Kid Stakes presented by the Centenary Theatre Group

Kid Stakes presented by the Centenary Theatre Group

Written by Ray Lawler
Directed by Janine Francis

Chelmer Community Theatre

24th Feb-12 Mar 2023

A sweet anachronistic window on Australian life with a skilled youthful cast.

Dr Gemma Regan

The Centenary Theatre Group’s 46th Season of community theatre kicks off with a charming Australian play Kid Stakes. Set in Melbourne in 1937, life seemed much simpler when relationships lead to marriage and kids. However, things get complicated when a long-distance relationship divides a young couple between Queensland and Victoria. Will love conquer all? 

Kid Stakes is Ray Lawler’s first of a three-part ‘Doll’ trilogy about love and relationships, the span of which is measured with a new doll every year for seventeen years. Although it is a true blue story set in a terraced house in Carlton, Melbourne, it was written by Lawley retrospectively in Ireland in 1974.

Two cane-cutters Roo (Jackson Paul) and Barney (Lachlan Gregory Hugh), come down from Queensland for their annual lay-off after the season ends. Their pockets are bulging ready for months of parties and plenty of sheilas. They bump into two young milliners, Olive (Tia Grewel) and her friend Nancy (Victoria Jayne), at a local aquarium and have a whale of a time, bad pun intended! 

A cunning plan has the boys living at home with them as paying lodgers in the house of Olive’s protective mother, Emma Leech (Fleur Kelly). Despite the shrewdness of Emma, the boys manage to move in leading to parties, chaos and career changes. The girls are initially happy to be free and easy in their seasonal affairs, but eventually dark secrets and the ticking clock bring their true feelings to the fore.

There is one additional character Dickie, an adorable willing suitor for Olive. Dickie works as a window dresser with Olive at the department store and woos his way into the heart of Olive’s mother, but alas, not of Olive. He is a dependable, motivated and responsible boy who is manipulated by a sweet Olive, who instead falls head over heels for the wilder self-assured Roo. He was played tenderly by Dean Noffke, who had us all urging her to change her mind and fall for him. Noffke is already acting and thinking like a pro, despite his youth. 

Director Janine Francis did a great job of casting. The pretty, diminutive Grewel has been treading the boards since she was seven and made a sweet and interesting Olive, whose character grew with her maturity. Jayne, who plays the more outgoing Nancy was bubbly and vivacious despite it only being her second production. Real-life friends Paul and Hugh were both convincing with their jocular laddish behaviour and their real friendship created a good rapport on stage.

The character of Olive’s mother Emma is as a strong no-nonsense matriarch. Unfortunately, first-timer Fleur Kelly did not always hit the mark. Perhaps a touch of nerves caused her halting sentences, which became distracting. However, with a few more performances as Emma under her belt, she will be much more confident with her skills and character.

The set designed by Frances and constructed by the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed was simple but effective. Ingeniously they left walls unfinished to give dimension to the homely scene whilst enabling the audience to view what was happening outside the house and in different rooms.

The evening was in three parts with two intervals, which may have interfered with some of the more senior audience member’s bedtimes. Director Francis had explained it was required for lengthy costume changes, and most people did not seem to mind the opportunity to grab another wine and stretch their legs. 1930s Cole Porter ditties were also playing during the intervals providing some musical entertainment and setting the scene firmly after the First World War.

Stage Manager Hugo Foong is a new welcome addition to the CTG and seemed to be omniscient, correcting opened curtains, directing the cast and even guiding audience members to their seats.

Overall, it was a sweet anachronistic window into Australian lives during simpler times with a skilled youthful cast. It is an enjoyable night out for all.


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