the last train to madeline

Fever103 Ruby Maishman and Eddie Orton in the last train to madeline photo by Liv MorisonThe Last Train to Madeline in equal parts will break your heart and make you believe in love again.

The Last Train to Madeline follows Maddy (Ruby Maishman) and Luke (Eddie Orton) through three pivotal moments shared together in time. Meeting when they are 8; Maddy is adventurous and headstrong, while Luke is nervous and sheepish.

Then again, as restless teenagers, and then once more in their early twenties. The audience follows them around this wheel, rotating through vignettes, discovering what pushes them together, and pulls them apart, unfolding what their future has in store for them.

Callum Mackay is cementing himself as one of Melbourne’s best emerging playwrights. His use of structure and themes are compelling, while remaining relatable. Although momentum slows in the last third, it is easily forgiven, the scope of the play and its use of time and multiple settings is ambitious. What is clear is that the play’s greatest challenges are overcome with the collaboration of its creative team.

A director’s hardest job is sometimes to get out of the way of the actors, Hayden Tonazzi does just that. With a gentle hand, he crafts intimate moments where his actors can shine. Maishman and Orton’s chemistry is electric, it is easy to fall in love with these characters.

Orton is a grounding force that anchors the two-hander in its more chaotic scenes, which allows Maishman to showcase a hurricane of a performance. With strong characterisation between the three ages they play, the audience never feels lost following their performances.

What was particularly commendable, was the seamless handling of the plethora of props. Between televisions, a bike, a tripod and a camera projecting a live feed, to name a few, it would have been a challenge for any performer. Even when things didn’t go as planned, the actors remained focused on each other.

Tonazzi writes in his director’s note that it was not the goal of this production for the audience to fall in love with these characters, but to demonstrate the times in their lives they should have moved on. To which I would say he both succeeds and fails, in the most spectacular of ways.

The audience does fall in love with these characters, they yearn for them to meet again and they root for them to end up together. But the audience is also keenly aware that these characters are not good for each other, which makes for the very best of theatre.

Music and sound design is a character in its own right. Oliver Beard impressively mixed and composed a beautiful curation of music that felt nostalgic for the audience while remaining true to the story.

Savanna Wegman’s ambitious set design completely transforms the Meat Market Stables, giving ramps, broken walls and overgrown vines that the actors, Maishman and Orton, utilise as their playground.

Not evoking a particular time or place, the set throws the audience into an almost timeless liminal space that remains in the audience’s mind long after the show is over. 

Fever103 continues cementing itself as a cornerstone in Melbourne’s independent theatre scene. It is a production that the entire team should be congratulated on. It is clear that the team Fever103 has assembled for The Last Train to Madeline is in a league of their own.

the last train to madeline
Meat Market Stables, 2 Wreckyn Street, North Melbourne
Season: 20 – 29 June 2024 (ended)

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Image: Ruby Maishman and Eddie Orton in the last train to madeline – photo by Liv Morison

Review: Nicholas Carr