Review by Jake Goodall
Local playwright James Halls recently premiered his latest production, Exit, at Spotlight Theatre Company. The play follows the story of Justin, a recovering drug addict, as he faces his past and struggles to overcome his addiction through a newly sober perspective.
Overall, Hall’s work felt complete but not entirely perfect. Advertised as a psychological thriller, it lacked the thrilling element that was expected. Hall’s writing style is beautiful and vivid, which allowed the audience to immerse themselves in the characters and their development throughout the play. It’s interesting to hear various interpretations of the play, as Hall’s main idea was to have Harvey symbolize Justin’s addiction. However, the play could possibly be categorized as a drama exploring the intersection of self-deprecation and drug addiction. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining piece of new theatre.
The set design by Clem Halpin and Russell Williams was impeccable, possibly the best part of this production. Williams is an experienced and talented set designer who has created worlds for numerous productions across Southeast Queensland. The set was flawless, reminiscent of something out of a Hollywood movie. It featured impeccable woodwork, such as an amazing wooden chandelier, a flickering fire, and shabby chic furniture. Kudos to the stage team for creating a realistic snow effect.
The sound design, also by Russell Williams, was well-utilized, creating a soundscape of a wintery cabin. The use of a theme for Justin’s partner helped to portray the ‘memory.’ The lighting design by Michael Sutton was simple, using just general wash for most of the production. It would have been nice to see a bigger lighting change, such as adding color, to assist with the portrayal of Sophia’s memory.
The direction by Clem Halpin was calm and calculated. Halpin transformed Hall’s production into something that is relevant to today’s society. The blocking was simple, utilizing the two-tiered set and scattered furniture throughout the stage. The highlight of the direction was the ending of the production, where Justin comes out of his addiction and anxiety. It was beautifully crafted to show his relief and happiness about returning to the real world.
Justin was played by Gold Coast legend Todd Jesson. Jesson is an extremely talented and highly skilled actor whose ability can be seen in his various roles across different productions. Although Jesson is primarily a musical theatre performer, it was wonderful to see him stretch his acting talents in a deep and layered role. His acting was measured and grounded, engaging the audience to see this deeply flawed character.
Harvey was played by Noel Thompson. Thompson portrayed this character with heart and terror, depicting addiction in human form, which was something impressive to see. Their acting, right up until the final blow, was careful and measured, showing how addiction can appear happy and playful but turn extremely deadly.
Emily Rowbottom played Sophia with grace and poise, portraying this angelic dancer with ease as she revealed the story of the eventual break-up with Justin and the secrets he was hiding. Rowbottom is a professionally trained screen actor who also has the skills to portray a beautiful character on the stage.
Overall, Exit was a great night out at the theatre, putting some important and modern themes on stage. As the season progresses, the show is bound to improve as the actors and crew settle into their performances. So now, all that’s left to say is Bravo!
Exit will play until 29 April 2023 and tickets are available here.