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Happy campers in the Barossa

Theatre

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Winter may be here, but with the Barossa Players, We’re all going on a summer holiday.

Cliff Richards’ ’60s chart-topper sets the tone for this play and, as the title suggests, a caravan – Parkes Robinson’s pride and joy – provides the backdrop for the adventure that is camping with friends.

Set in the 1970s, Caravan has timeless themes: relationships, truth, acceptance and respect present themselves through the misadventures of five 40-somethings, one of whom is accompanied by the latest addition to an increasingly younger collection of girlfriends. Six people, two weeks, one van!

This is an energetic cast with a range of experience and polish. Prudence Gill and Colin Davis are dynamic as Monica and Parkes, while newcomer Gian Wagland seems comfortable in the limelight. It is a strength of this two-years-young company that it attracts such breadth of experience and expertise, embracing tertiary learning through technical operation and nurturing the art of performance; a true community celebration.

Playwright Donald MacDonald has created a script full of double meanings, sight gags and bawdy humour; engagement at this level is not difficult.

Director David Underwood works well in a reduced space in the Eckermann Theatre at the Barossa Arts and Convention Centre, maximising the inflated interior of a four-bed van. Levels are varied and provide a real sense of dimension, time passes without any drag, and his use of slapstick is farcically hilarious.

The set design by Virginia Armstrong is smart; the choice to cut out the caravan body to present a TV screen façade connects with us socially and provides a perception of depth. Showing versatility, Wagland creates all the sound and, while more music to match the era could have been expected, the audience connects with the agelessness that Caravan presents.

Among all the enjoyment the performance stimulates, this is still amateur theatre. Pace can be stilted, delivery can lack variation and action/interaction can be rehearsed rather than felt. But, when it all boils down to it, it is the audience members who matter most, and Caravan has enjoyed a sold-out run (with an unprecedented extra show added) in a professional venue, generating raucouslaughter and resonant applause. It all adds up to one thing: happy campers … Hi-ho Silver, away.

Caravan’s season at the Barossa Arts and Convention Centre has now finished.

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