Margaret River's young acting talent shines bright in 'Away'

Senior drama students from Margaret River Senior High School (MRSHS) dazzled audiences earlier this month with their mature and polished production of Australian play, ‘Away’.

Set during the Australian summer holidays of the late 1960s, Michael Gow’s script centres on the recent death of a young boy, and the impending death of another.

The cast of young performers handled the often emotionally wrenching script with a maturity beyond their years, the unhurried and emotive performances of Jasmine Paterson (Vic) and Bryn Larkin (Harry) stand outs as parents negotiating the future of their beloved teenage son while holding on to the happiness of living in our sunburnt country.

As the son in question, Taj Hedley (Tom) balanced the teenage laughs and lustings with an often-startling reminder of what lies ahead, careful to protect his loving parents from his fears.

Isabel Pianta, as the grieving mother and infuriatingly desperate wife to Caleb Topham’s quietly furious school principal Roy, provided a stark comparison with the pain of loss against the hopeful Hedley and his paramour, Meg (played by Hannah Lane).  

Bryn Larkin showed fantastic ability with his quick-change between the northern-British accented Harry and the hysterically funny, self-confessed “Rotary man” camper. 

As married couple Jim and Gwen, David Lochore and Peppa Lane were both funny and desperately sad in their desire to enjoy a happy holiday with their daughter while Lane, as the frustrated and hysterical Gwen, had the audience sympathising with her hilarious Pauline Hanson-esque character’s sadness by the second act. 

Stepping up to perform with his older cast mates, Year 10 student Dillon Sharwood ably backed Pianta’s dramatic moments.

Lightening the mood thanks to a turn on her ukelele, the brilliant Kiera Smirke performed two songs which had the audience rolling with laughter, with many surprised to discover Smirke tackled the far heavier role of Coral, which she shared across the production run with Pianta. 

A supporting cast of talented young actors and dancers made light work of juggling a number of other roles including the ethereal and useful-for-stage-changes fairies, Makaylah Olthof, Yana Bacich and Ruby Flintoff. 

A particularly dialogue- and monologue-heavy script proved no concern for the young performers. 

Head of Drama and director Mem McCormack said she was “incredibly proud” of her students both on stage and behind the scenes.

“A huge amount of work has gone into this production and I cannot speak highly enough of the students who have worked very hard to deliver such a great performance,” she said after the cast had taken their bows.

Rave reviews filled the school’s auditorium foyer, where parents and school friends gathered to congratulate the members of the production.

Ms McCormack said the talent and commitment of her young charges was testament to their passion for the craft.

“These kids study and learn their lines, they support each other and I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts in this show.”