Review: The Lies We Were Told – Shopfront Arts Co-Op (NSW)

Directed by Natalie Rose, scripted by Natalie Rose, Sharleen Ndolvu, Nicole Pingon

Review by Charlotte Smee

The Lies We Were Told returns to the Shopfront stage, partnering with ATYP to bring you a performance of what it’s like to grow up – straight from the mouths of babes. The most striking thing about this production is the generosity and genuine joy that every part of the ensemble and their team have both on and off stage. From moving set pieces around the stage, to giving each other moments of hilarity, sadness or silliness, the Shopfront team are a tight-knit community that is a delight to experience.

The play began with the cast (aged between 8 and 18) laid across the stage, telling us about a collection of lies – from the lie that soy sauce had enough alcohol in it to get you drunk, to the lie that is the gender binary. A premise like this could have easily moved into didactic territory, but the charisma and sincerity of these young people made their stories even more relatable.

Lighting and set design by Daniel Potter brought everything but the kitchen sink to help tell us lies. A tower of lit-up boxes in the centre of the stage became two opposing platforms for a debate on big lies and little lies, and moving boxes fell down from their position as walls and became seats for a “lying support group”. Finally, a glittering sequin backdrop turned around to remind us that we were backstage in the real world.

TV screens behind the young actors featured pre-recorded sections of dialogue in their own scene about how to tell a lie and were later used as computer screens for people to join their support group via Zoom. Every set piece and prop were controlled or moved by a member of the cast, and finally placed in a pile at the front of the stage as the story built up. This made for a great final image of young people laying in the same positions as the beginning, with their props and set pieces stripped back.

Direction and script by Natalie Rose, scripting also by Sharleen Ndolvu and Nicole Pingon, gave each member of the cast their own moment to shine. It felt like this show was a true work of collaboration, with moments like the “Thriller” song and dance featuring live bass, and saxophone jokes via Zoom, giving that extra level of joy. This meant that some scenes were slightly repetitive, or some cast members took focus where they possibly shouldn’t have. Music by Prema Yin while useful to build tension, sometimes took focus or filled space that should have been given to the actors.

Nevertheless, I was so impressed by the commitment of all these young people – Tom Anderson, Sunny Morris, Geronimo Devitt, Alana Saidi, Gil Gracie, Noam Sen Gupta, Megan Harrison, Tom Scekic, Tristan Holmes, Olivia Tsigaropoulos, Jake Miligan, Miah Tito-Barratt, Astra Milne, and Jack Waters. Some of these cast members, particularly Olivia, had better vocal control than some adult actors I’ve seen on the stage, and their generosity with each other and the audience was such fun.

Sitting in the audience for The Lies We Were Told took me straight back to my high school drama classroom. Natalie Rose and the team at Shopfront are to be commended for instilling a love of theatre in the next generation of artists – despite the pandemic and everything else. But at the same time, this work felt very grown up; it wasn’t just a recreation of some other person’s work but an opportunity for these young people to speak for themselves. Whether that be by yelling about orange chicken that is really salmon or lamenting the impending doom of climate change, to talking about the struggles of finding yourself in an increasingly stifling society, this show gives room for it all. I couldn’t help but smile as I left the theatre.

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Lies We Were Told plays until 1 May at the Shopfront Arts Co-Op, Carlton. Their final performances are sold out!

The Lies We Were Told is part of our April cheap thrills.

CAST

Tom Anderson, Sunny Morris, Geronimo Devitt, Alana Saidi, Gil Gracie, Noam Sen Gupta, Megan Harrison, Tom Scekic, Tristan Holmes, Olivia Tsigaropoulos, Jake Miligan, Miah Tito-Barratt, Astra Milne, and Jack Waters.

CREATIVES

Director Natalie Rose

Assistant Directors Sharleen Ndolvu and Nicole Pingon

Scripted by Natalie Rose, Sharleen Ndolvu, Nicole Pingon

Composer Prema Yin

Lighting and Set Designer Daniel Potter

Production Manager Tyler Fitzpatrick

Production Crew Jeremy Ainsworth, Jaime Petersen, Taran Reilly, Olivia Tagg, Ian Woolford

Operators Georgia Tyrill and Olivia Tagg

Producers Valentina Corona, Lily Hayman, and Sophie Ward

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