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Castle Hill Players: Caravan - Review by Daniel Conway

I love my alone time; I love it so much. Socialising is great, and I enjoy being with my friends and family and experiencing new things. But all of that is sweeter knowing that at the end of the day, you can close your door and shut out everyone else. So the very thought of spending two whole weeks with my nearest and dearest in a tiny caravan sounds like a literal nightmare to me. I know that if I were any of the characters in "Caravan" performed by Castle Hill Players, I would have been out of there as soon as the first raindrop hit my face.

Directed by Bernard Teuben, "Caravan" is very Australian in its humour, which I am not going to lie is a bit dated at times. Teuben has assembled a great team which meets the standard of quality and professionalism I have come to accept from a night at the Pavillion Theatre. As always, the set is wonderful, utilizing depth of space with the windows to make the space in the caravan really tight and sell the claustrophobia of the setting, while allowing for some great comedic beats in the background through the small windows of the set piece. The set is stunning and is so well-made, it is probably my favourite set I have seen from the folks at Castle Hill, which is saying something.

The show revolves around a group of friends, divided into a trio of couples. This is an ensemble show that works because of how good everyone on stage is and how well they complement each other's energies. Jason Spindlow as Parks has a wonderful sense of physical humour and is so intentionally insufferable and frustrating with hints of youthful charm, all of this is spurred on as he interacts with the cool and witty Margareta Moir as Monica. Moir is a comedic standout with her delivery and characterisations; every single punchline lands, and she does an exceptional job of creating clear relationships with the other characters. This is particularly the case with Vanessa Henderson's Penny. Penny is the long-suffering wife of Parks who Henderson has played with a tension that needs to be released, when that moment comes it is cathartic and so entertaining. Monica's husband is played by Daniel Ferris, who is an excellent comedic foil and has an ease on stage that makes him so watchable. Rounding out this motley crew is the loved-up pairing of Pierce (Ben Wheeler) and Gwendolyn (Jade Brimfield). Wheeler is very good at back and forth; he has a great sense of timing and delivery. Brimfield had an excellent characterisation, everything from the jingling of her costume to the intonation of her voice told me everything I needed to know about Gwendolyn.

The only downside to this show for me, and I alluded to this before, is the fact that comedy exists in its context and sometimes that doesn't translate too well as time passes. There are some jokes that didn't sit great with me, but that is not the fault of the performers or the company. So this downside is less of a critique and more of a content warning for some dated humour along the way.

This is a standout cast and a truly high-quality production. Castle Hill Players produce great work, and I know I am in for a good night when I get a chance to go to see them. I give "Caravan" 4.25 mild concussions from a low door frame out of 5.

Photos provided by Chris Lundie

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