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March 15, 2004 | by  | in Theatre |
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Inviting Caroline

Look at yourself. You are Inviting Caroline’s target demographic.

Joining the ever-growing legions of plays, films and books aimed firmly at the hedonistic 20-something, Inviting Caroline is the story of the build-up to, reality and consequences of narrator Scott’s 20-somethingth birthday. The premise is good, if somewhat generic – the stage lights come up on a flat living room filled with fighting people. After a few seconds of cacophony, the other characters pause and Scott looks up. “In retrospect,” he muses to the audience, “inviting Caroline was probably a bad idea”. From here, of course, the script takes us back a week to discover why inviting Caroline was inevitable, and terrible, what her relationship is to Scott’s other friends and how the party winds up in bloodshed.

The greatest strength of this play lies in its script. Scott is a lyrical young man prone to spouting modern philosophy in his frequent asides. These are, in general, hilarious, and offer some pertinent insight. The best of Scott’s aphorisms are those followed by enactment. For example, the line “The ‘ish’ suffix is the destroyer of the modern absolute – but also an effective loophole” is followed by an uproarious little scene with a couple at a café, in which the man is only late-ish, the wine is red-ish and the bread fresh-ish. Technical effect is also well employed. Scott’s realisation that “I would have to invite… Caroline” is met with an ominous thunder clap.

Unfortunately, while the script is excellent and the direction seamless, Caroline’s cast of young actors let the material down. I use the word ‘young’ deliberately – there is a lot of promise here, but right now I think that these guys are suffering from lack of experience. Tim Heal, as Scott, is amiable but a little forced. He struggles through several of his lengthy prose passages and seems generally miscast. Chris Tan, playing intellectual Sebastian, loses some great lines through speed and lack of volume, while Zoe Timbrell, as beautiful dream girl Hillary, has a tendency to descend into flouncy melodrama. The best acting is seen, unfortunately, in the least rounded character. Rob Jerram is hysterical as bogan Chris, managing to deliver lines like “Baby, we’re made for each other – you’re fuckin’ amazing and I’m an amazing fuck” without a hint of irony.

There is definitely enough in this play for me to recommend it – it’s funny, fast-paced and visually engaging. And I wish all of the actors best of luck in their future endeavours, but don’t think that they’re quite up to it this time.

Written and directed by Ross MacDonald
BATS until March 13

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