Melbourne Fringe: Hell’s Canyon

La Mama Hell's Canyon Conor Leach and Isabelle Ford - photo James JohnA brilliant and slick work of theatre from a tremendously talented writer. Hell’s Canyon catches your attention right from the get go.

The actors instantly know where they are and effortlessly bring the audience into their world. They are out for an adventure, two teenagers against the world. Two complex, naive, smart and scared teenagers, trying to make sense of the perils and pitfalls of life. Audiences won’t find cliché or the “angry teenager” narrative here – the writing is too smart for that.

Isabelle Ford and Conor Leach are perfectly cast. They embody these characters with every breath, every movement. They are relaxed and alert – is a joy to see two actors so comfortable on stage. Isabelle leads the work with a powerhouse performance as Caitlin but it Conor Leach’s Oscar that is the standout, delivering a consistent and impressive characterisation that never dipped, not for a moment.

Katie Cawthorne’s direction masterfully blended the ground reality of the play, with the more fantasy elements. The script was treated with such respect and tenderly crafted into a bold but restrained production. The lighting and sound design were a prime example of these elements can make a show pop when used right, and boy were they on point.

Having seen Hell’s Canyon journey from its reading at the National Playwriting Festival to being published and performed, after a successful Sydney season, it is inspiring to see scripts like these given the pathway to stage they so richly deserve.

Leaving the theatre, one can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief – for if playwrights like a Emily Sheehan are the future of Australian theatre, then we are in some pretty spectacularly safe and talented hands.

Hell’s Canyon
Meeting Room 1 – Trades Hall, Corner Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton
Performance: Sunday 23 September 2018 – 4.00pm
Season: 12 – 23 September 2018 (closed)

Image: Conor Leach and Isabelle Ford in Hell’s Canyon – photo by James John

Review: Gavin Roach