The Fringe is a perfect opportunity for young or amateur auteurs and production outfits to showcase their emerging talents and creations. With more receptive audiences, a score of venues enthusiastic about showcasing new work and a wide range of shows with various levels of polish, our biggest arts festival is the ideal incubator for young arts hopefuls looking to develop their careers on the larger stage of our state performing arts industry.
Jack Cummins is a St. Ignatius College high school student and last year's junior winner of the Young Playwright's Award — a fantastic joint initiative between Flinders University and the State Theatre Company — for his playscript Clanstow. Cummins has started his own amateur theatre company Glassroom Theatre to perform the play at Noel Lothian Hall for this year's Fringe season. The packed-to-the-rafters opening matinee performance and warm reception seem pretty decent indicators that Cummins has a bright future ahead of him in the performing arts.
The whole production is impressively seamless and enjoyable for a debut performance. Scene changes were fluid, the performances were largely capable and Cummins' dialogue is punchy with a brash authenticity. The mystery/thriller story also explores themes of love, mental health and trauma with an unexpected maturity. While Clanstow has vital shortcomings, those few offered here are hopefully seen more as encouragement of an emergent talent. There are some logical disconnects in the breakneck plot where character motivations seem forced, the mature themes could be explored further for greater catharsis and occasionally there is a faintly amusing 'soap opera' scent of melodrama hanging in the air that clashes with the darker narrative.
But if Clanstow is anything to go by, I have renewed faith in our state's ability to produce and nurture young creative talents. The show is a remarkable debut for the writer, cast and crew - with a little adjustment, it would easily stand comfortably among the Fringe theatre heavyweights. Keep an eye on Glassroom Theatre for more great shows, and also just to keep encouraging new talent in the performing arts in Adelaide.