Hills Youth Theatre
Stirling Community Theatre
Until 30 Jun 2019

Review by Talia Gaertner-Jones

What I love about Hills Youth Theatre performances is that they choose to perform shows that take their characters on an emotional journey, forcing the performers out of their comfort zones. Joan Leslie and Di Mason’s script adapted from the novel of the same name by Ethel Turner lends itself well to youth theatre.

The cast of the Woolcot family are all strong in character and blend well with each other, making the family dynamics believable – which isn’t always an easy task. The group of seven children in particular are a standout, with each character unique with their own personality traits, yet interacting with each other with the ease of real siblings. Leading the family is Sam Ewart as Captain Woolcot. Playing the head of a household or any adult in youth theatre is always a hit or miss but Ewart is strong and solid and despite his age and appearance steps into this role with ease. Harriett Wolf as the stepmother, Esther, is kind and delicate and comes across as the perfect nurturing mother to her stepchildren. As mentioned already, all the children, Claire Grosser as Meg, Luka Bolte as Pip, Jaimi Wilson as Judy, Alex Lang as Nell, Daniel Banham as Bunty, Mia Bryson as Baby and Audrey Vincent as General are all praiseworthy.

The ensemble characters do not go unnoticed either. Lucy Thompson as Martha, Tom Grosser as Tom the stationhand and Harlie Smith as Miss Burton are exemplary. There is also a lovely moment as the cast gathers on stage to sing “God Save the Queen” while Audrey Vincent plays the violin live on stage. The seaside dancers featuring Lewis Golding are a fun moment along with the colourful maypole dance.

The costumes for the show are appropriate to the era and bring their own dynamics to the stage, from the traditional costumes of the maypole dancers, to the spots and stripes of the swimsuits, to the school uniforms and Captain’s military uniform.

Director Di Mason and Assistant Director Sonja Zodrow along with the team of tutors at Hills Youth Theatre have taught and guided this group of children to create a beautiful show. The nights may be cold at the moment, but do yourself a favour and head up to the hills and warm your hearts with this Australian story.