Nash’s Casablanca takes the audience back to the days of classic radio drama, when the airways were the hub of family entertainment.
Two short acts of about 30 minutes make up this audio drama which has a lot more zest and fun than one may imagine for a radio play turned stage show. The story moves fast and is to the point, which was necessary for a script with less visual action than your usual play. It’s great to see some risk-taking that pays off. Something different like this production could easily be a dreary flop, but it was done well to create an enjoyable taste of what at-home entertainment was like before television arrived.
The show was delivered in its traditional form as if the cast were back in the 1940s broadcast studio. The actors spoke into prop microphones with scripts in hand, done up to the nines in 40s clothing. They were an elegant sight with the men in suits and women in chic costume with diamonds and pearls. Although there was little movement on stage, there was rarely a dull moment with amusement provided by June A. Balfour’s entertaining sound effects and piano accompaniment. Her clever creations included popped balloons for gunshots but the most impressive was using a bike wheel to improvise sound of a roulette table and airplane.
Paul Careless, as Rick Blaine, made his second appearance in a renowned Humphrey Bogart role, after staring in Nash’s 2008 production of radio drama The Maltese Falcon. He’s an obvious choice for the lead, portraying the suave and influential gentleman superbly. His leading lady, Isla Lund, was perfectly matched by the charming Barbara Thomas.
Ruben Francis took on an array of characters with an assortment of accents. However, it was his role as the announcer that stood out among them with his appealing radio voice. His energy propelled the action and his performance kept the experience of a radio drama alive throughout.
Nigel Munro-Wallis was a deliciously wayward Captain Louis Renault, and a mention must also go to the devious talent of Damian Danaher as Franz Ugarte.
Opening night was a full-house and it was the biggest turnout I’ve seen at Nash. The high quality of shows this year so far in amateur and professional Brisbane productions is great incentive for audiences to get to the theatre in 2010 and support the arts.
Casablanca is showing until the 27th of March. Bookings can be made online at www.nashtheatre.com.