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‘the carousel’: sisters step up at kxt

production photos Felicity Tchorlian.

Nope…never done that.   Really, that’s a thing? Noooo…  It’s possible my inner monologue got the better of me during THE CAROUSEL playing at Kings Cross Theatre as part of their Step Up Festival.  It’s about sisters, you see, and I have only one brother, younger and still annoying.  So wisely, I took along with me a friend who is somewhat oversupplied with sisters.

In the end I didn’t actually need my friend’s advice.  THE CAROUSEL is so cleverly constructed and the performances so expertly placed that everyone is welcome to relate in this frantic, crazy, sneakily political sisterhood.  Judging from the amount of male laughter, you don’t need to be female either.

We meet Christa, the older, and Jamie, the younger sister.  Jamie has captured a large, and hairy, spider which her older, wiser sister insists is her own responsibility to feed.  Over the next 80 minutes we will get to know these pair as young women, occasionally flashing back to their more innocent selves.  Christa is set on a career as an actor and has a pretty self-centred outlook.  Jamie, on the other hand, is a gamer and increasingly insular and heading for Hikikomori.

Tasha O’Brien is Christa and Alex Francis, Jamie and they are a splendid pairing.  This is a very busy show, the siblings’ ups and downs explored by a great many scenes which cut quickly, often at emotional moments only to begin seconds later in a different headspace.    It could be all a bit confusing but O’Brien and Francis have complete command of the energy, throughline and history of each new moment.  It helps that the funny and witty text by Pippa Elams’ has pinpoint delineation built in.

And that the sure directorial hand of Hannah Goodwin ensures the changes never seem jerky or disorienting.  An exit and a turn often guiding the change rather than using lighting or music in any abrasive way.  The lighting crosses are gentle and the colour use discretely limited, mostly to blues and ambers.  The music elides us into the next scene rather than artificially forcing the audience into the emotion of the next sequence… sometimes wistful held chords but no shortage of upbeat pieces either. (Lighting design: Emma Lockhart-Wilson, Sound Design: Tom Hogan)

There is a lot of action in the show and some excellent physical theatre in the dancing and in some of the quieter, responsorial, aha’s.  O’Brien is particularly adept at the latter, you can see her mind working before an “I hadn’t thought of that!”  Francis has one especially engaging scene which involves a great deal of leaping around and overacting and she is hilarious. It’s such great work from these two artists who foreground the siblings’ differences so well yet never lose sight of what makes them so close.

Their portrait of the girls’ relationship is warm and believable, Christa and Jamie are never rivals and their sarcasm is never bullying or mean. “You can’t rely on me” sits easily with “I’m here for you” in a  sparkling text which has the sisters avoid bickering and bitchiness almost completely.

THE CAROUSEL is sharp, accessible, emotional in places and hysterical in others.   It rollicks along for its 80 minutes yet leaves one with food for thought about sisters, or brothers, and the world outside the sanctuary of Christa and Jamie’s sisterhood.  In other words, it needs no interpretation.  Though I really enjoyed my friend’s story, standing on the footpath after the show, about her sister’s explanation about where the noses go …

As THE CAROUSEL [Facebook] is only playing 2 nights you may well miss this run but keep an eye out for it.  Also, check out the other shows in KXT’s Step Up season [Facebook] as it’s a great chance to see new work.


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