Local adaptation of short story a highlight of Performing Arts Festival

Breanna RedheadBusselton Dunsborough Times
Lexi Andreone, Janet Dickinson and Kristina Ollenburg share the role of Iris in Eight Lives
Camera IconLexi Andreone, Janet Dickinson and Kristina Ollenburg share the role of Iris in Eight Lives Credit: Breanna Redhead/BDT

In its world premiere, the latest murder-mystery play out from Busselton Repertory Club is a smashing success in its refreshing adaptation of a little-known story.

Written by Diane L Decker, Eight Lives is a three-act performance adapted from a short story of the same name by Susan Dunlap.

With no former material from which to gather inspiration, director Sara King is to be commended on her creative staging, in which a series of flashbacks are brought in life in the McNair household, spectacularly designed by John Winchcombe, which served as a time capsule for the story.

The story follows inquisitive journalist Barbara Armitage (Kirsten Roberts) as she presses the elderly Iris McNair (Janet Dickinson) on the happenings of her husband’s unresolved murder some 25 years ago.

Roberts gives a pleasant performance after an eight-year hiatus from the stage but it is Dickinson who drives the show, giving such natural conviction to the role, balancing tired hard-done-by widow with a vanity and wickedness that comes to a head in a powerful final monologue.

Lexi Andreone is a breath of fresh air as young Iris, giving a very believable portrayal of the naive, young and in-love girl, albeit a bit too young against the rest of her cast mates but that is to be forgiven knowing the limited casting pool available.

Ross Paine also delights as Iris’ scandalous husband George, his flirtatious nature balancing well against the likes of Ash Jackson as the comedic and absent-minded Muriel, whose performance was particularly well received by fans on this particular night.

Kristina Ollenburg shows her stern and collected demeanour as middle-aged Iris in a raw and emotional portrayal, a refreshing side to see from the actress compared to recent on-stage roles.

In another theatrical debut, Michael Little was a personal highlight as the ambitious and vivacious Gabriel, a performance so strong it is hard to believe he held no previous stage experience.

Given the span of the show’s time line, costuming played a pivotal role in this performance and it was executed with precision by Colleen Hughes who effortlessly demonstrated the passing from 70s to 90s style through the likes of Iris’ girl gang brought to life by Louise Bell, Jane Francis and Rep club debutante Jacqui Wells.

While undoubtedly some areas are in need of work as with any premiere production, Eight Lives is a fantastic night out, showing great promise for a home on stage that I certainly hope is picked up internationally upon review from Dunlap as it is a phenomenal retelling of her work.

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