The Gathering is five years in the making, and what a journey the show has been on. From development at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and at Theatreworks in St Kilda, presented excerpts in Melbourne and now, the beautiful package of a show presented at fortyfivedownstairs as part of Vic Theatre Company’s double feature with The Last Five Years.
The musical by William Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin has really grown and developed its heart and its guts, becoming as the co-creators intended it to: a musical for and about Generation Y, about human relationships in your early twenties and love and friendship.
The show follows Tom, who comes home after five years of running away, and throws a housewarming with all of his best friends. They plan to catch up, party all night and stay up til dawn like they used to, but secrets are shared and memories are uncovered.
Beautifully, gracefully and with all the heart imaginable, the show tackles themes of friendship, family, child abuse, loss, break ups, mental health and more. It also does this with humour and wit, as well as being current and trendy, and set in Australia with current references to pop culture and politics- jokes about quitting sugar have never been better placed.
The show has flourished under Chris Parker’s direction, who has taken great care and heart to build the layers and nuances to the show. Joel Granger’s performance as Tom the returned runaway is heartfelt and heartbreaking, emotionally raw, emotionally unstable and completely endearing. Shannan Alyce Quan is the picture of a frustrated, abandoned sister, and her number “Sweet December Feelings” is set to be the new go to Aussie female ballad. Daniel Assetta is a sassy, fearless Luke and her sidekick, and their duet “I Miss Us” is the epitome of best friendship. Olivia Charalambous is a charming and awkward Mia, still harbouring a crush on Tom after five years, and Daniel Cosgrove and Hannah Sullivan McInerney as Joe and Daisy are the dysfunctional couple post break up: not sure where they stand but still fighting the attraction. This incredible cast have a strong chemistry and know the show inside out, creating an engaging and dynamic world to step into.
The music gives the performances the perfect opportunity to soar and show off, and the cast is perfectly in sync with the tight five piece band lead by Daniel Puckey. With direction and arrangements by Puckey, and with additional arrangements by Lucy O’Brien, the music has the right mix of fun, bright, energetic company numbers and heart felt duets and ballads, and builds a heightened sense of emotion and suspense throughout the show. Sound design by Nick Walker uses an ambient soundtrack against the vibrant music, from rain and fire sounds to the Jumanji style banging and suspense fuelled undertones, to create a rich soundscape.
The actors move around the space well, and the choreography in “Never Ever”, the major party scene is snappy and well representative of a house party, and well performed in the large space. The show feels as if it was meant to sit in the sparse, industrial space of fortyfivedownstairs, with the iron beams and peeling paintwork on the brick backdrop the ideal setting for the run down house Tom has inherited. The scraps of carpet are a particular highlight, a kaleidoscope of off cuts, and the miscellaneous, non-matching pieces of furniture create the picture of 21st century share house.
The lighting makes clever use of lighting through mobile phones, hand held halogens and the traditional theatre lighting, with great use of colour for the attic and rain scenes, and use of shadow to help build the suspense the show builds to.
Everything about this show is in sync. With songs that feel like they will become Australian theatre classics, sung around the piano at Fab Fridays and auditions all over the country (if they haven’t already!). A new standard in Australian independent theatre, fans of indie and cult theatre will adore this brilliant new offering, a witty show for the 21st century.
The Gathering is playing at fortyfivedownstairs as follows:
December 3rd 8.30pm
December 4th 3.00pm
December 6th 7.30pm
December 8th 7.30pm
December 10th 8.30pm
December 11th 7.30pm
Tickets at: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/