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July 16, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Falling Petals

Written by Ben Ellis
Directed by Jean Betts
Until 21st July, 8:30pm
$13 concession

Something’s rotten in the town of Hollow.

Our story begins with the funeral of a seven-year-old boy who has died from a mysterious illness, in the small Australian town of Hollow. But teenagers Phil, Sally and Tania don’t care, showing a callous disregard for their fellow townspeople. Phil (Eli Kent) and Tania (Abby Marment) are focused on getting the best marks in their exams, as University entrance and degrees in law and economics are their tickets to the good life in Melbourne. It’s Hollow they hate, and as Phil states their sole purpose here is to “get the marks and get out”.

The “nasty little town” that Phil describes in the first scene slowly begins to materialise, as more children start dying from the mysterious disease. As the disease spreads to the teenagers, paranoia and hysteria escalate. Phil argues that the kids die because they have no ambition to live, revealing his deep prejudice against “underachievers”.

As the town strives to protect its businesses and the tourist trade from contamination, the children are rejected by their parents, and Sally (Rachel Forman) is left to roam the streets and search for food. When Hollow becomes quarantined, Phil and Tania make a desperate escape attempt to try to sit their exams, spurred on with support from their “Mind power series” audio tapes, telling them “everything happens for a reason”.

It’s an allegorical piece, and Ben Ellis’ political bent is quite clear – he critiques the capitalism taking over everything which values nothing unless a price can be placed on it. The place you come from has no value, big city and big money are the new goals for the young, and there’s nothing sacred in studying something because it’s interesting. This focus on individual achievement at the cost of others, including the lives of your friends, is dramatised by the actions of both the adults and the children of Hollow.

However, the play provides no easy answers in offering an alternative. Although Sally will not leave Hollow for the Melbourne lifestyle, it is because her mother criticises her potential, as do the careers counslors to Phil and Tania.

The evocative set (by Joe Bleakley) consists of a wooden tree made out of components from doors, which represents the apple tree where the gang hang out. The petals of the title fall down, and become strewn on the stage. The sound design (Paddy Bleakley) and lightin (Jen Lal) are also impressive, emphasising the strange nature of the events taking place.

Phil Peleton and Heather O’Carroll play all the other roles in the production, from parents, to teachers, to doctors. They both bring a sense of realism and character to each new role, avoiding the trap of falling into stereotyped caricature. Strong direction and excellent acting from the cast ensures the slow descent into madness is compelling and believable.

Another stunner from The Collective, a company whom we have come to expect great things from, this is tight, gripping theatre with direct political relevance. See it.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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