Trolley Boys

A notoriously difficult time of year, January is a tricky time for independent theatre in Sydney- the post glow of Christmas gluttony has left everyone feeling a little less generous with their money- the razzle dazzle of the Sydney Festival’s international acts descend upon the city with a budget quadruple (at least) than most independent theatre’s see in a year- and then there is the hydra-headed short play festival which gulps up time and talent feeding itself on guilt and competition- and then the rival of all theatre: wonderful weather with it’s cricket season and beckoning beach adventures… so its a tough time to be on…
When I first encountered the writing of Alex Cullen she was suggested to me by Van Badham for the inaugural Brand Spanking New in 2008- I sent her (and alot of her Wollongongian writerly colleagues) the guidelines and she submitted a very early draft of Trolley Boys. When I had read it- I had a great amount of interest in the robust urban dialect- the obscure location- and the bizarre b-grade sci-fi references… however wasn’t quite what I was looking for- a little long and in need of some development time- but worthy of attention… and some brave choices which needed to be fully fleshed out. I liked it enough to ask Alex to submit something shorter- and that is how The Devil Has a Townhouse in Tamworth came to be a part of BSN 2008.
A year and a half later- Trolley Boys has made its debut at The Old Fitz, the Tamarama Rock Surfers again putting new Australian work at the forefront of their programming. This production is the second (I know of) Dahlstrom has directed by Alex Cullen, having directed “Leftovers” at the NIDA showcase in 2007 and contains five actors who hail from NIDA, WAAPA and one from a practical background in comedy. There is alot of training spread throughout the CVs- and impressive lists of experience.
However, this is not a production for those expecting well crafted staging- elegant performances- this is rough and tumble gutsy grunt farce… it’s school yard graffiti- it’s street slang ribaldry- and feels like a bluelight disco which has been over-run by zombies and shopping trolleys. Its cheesy- and poor taste and silly… and expecting it to be any deep parable on the state of the world will only make you disappointed.
Though I am going to declare that this production wasn’t really my thing (I’m not keen on zombies in general but I know some very cool reviewers who spend ALOT of their time with 80’s B-Grade horror who would find this a hoot!). I am going to suggest that perhaps this would have been a very fun show for some of the more rambunctious 18-25 year olds at ATYP could really sink their teeth into- and clown about with… in this circumstance the level of the practitioners, the venue and the mainstage slot leads us to expect something a little deeper, darker or more meaningful- when really there is a niche for this type of postmodern farce- and I suspect this year’s Sydney Fringe would embrace this style of performance and give it an appropriate home.
Meanwhile- having a full length new play produced anywhere in Sydney is a major feat of courage and focus and is worth supporting: Alex Cullen in 10 years just may be one of the most prolific comedy writers of her generation… we need to support writers not just in their time of golden success but when they are developing and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.