Stage Fright

NEW THEATRE: Based on the beloved kids' novels by Paul Jennings, Stage Fright is a delight for young and old alike.
Stage Fright
Stage Fright was advertised as a kid’s show; but this reviewer was laughing and loving it as much as any of the kids at the matinee performance – maybe even just a teeny bit more. Richard Tulloch’s excellent theatre show worked on two levels: as a great couple of hours of entertainment for young folk, but also as a wonderful trip down memory lane for the older folk who read the popular Paul Jennings books it’s based on, back in their own primary school days.

Inspired by the quirky short stories of Paul Jennings, Stage Fright was like a greatest hits of classic moments from Unreal and other books. Cleverly woven in amongst a running story about three school kids locked in a haunted house, the small cast of five continuously morphed into new characters to reveal each miniature tale.

The set was thought out cleverly, and shrewd lighting established a convincingly spooky mood, adding an extra level of depth to the whole affair. Not all the credit can be given to the stage play and the set however. An extremely talented troupe of actors were responsible for bringing the show to life with vigor and hilarity, triggering delighted laughter, snorting and chortling from both kids and adults alike, time and again.

Gideon Cordover was superbly cringe-worthy in the old favourite, Lucky Lips. For the unconverted, this tale follows Marcus, a boy who acquires magic kissing lipstick but accidentally manages to get kissed by teachers, mothers – anyone but the girl he has his sights on. Cordover also blew everyone away with his unexpected gymnastic feats, in addition to his slipping seamlessly into several characters – from scaredy-pants school kid to lovestruck teen, from Rastas the hypnotised rooster to baby in a nappy and dummy, he kept kids and adults in hysterics.

Sebastian Lamour was mirthful as Nigel, the ghost who’s too pathetic to scare anyone. And he was absolutely priceless as the crackpot maths teacher (think Mr. DeMartino from Daria!) Adult audiences also enjoyed the in-joke of Indiana Jones running through the jungle to get to the dunny in the backyard.

Tina Jackson played an unpretentious Faye, the darling of the schoolyard, and an endearing Roberta, the naughty girl hypnotising her friends at school; she also played a frighteningly good near-deaf Aunty Flo for Skeleton on the Dunny. Kids in the audience also couldn’t get enough of her portrayal of one half of the school bully’s dumb-as-a-doorknob henchmen. The dumber and more evil, the more they loved her.

Emily Sheehan made a fine mean girl, and played all the mean girls. Not just mean girls in the schoolyard though; mean dentists, mean ghosts and even a mean, eccentric fortuneteller.

Rose Purse was perhaps pressed to act with the most versatility, lending a different swagger, voice and composure to a string of hilarious characters: Tommo the Ocker house painter, Nigel’s mother the senior spook, the gullible kid hypnotised into being a snail-eating chook, a lunatic scientist in The Copy, and old Ned, the ghost on the dunny. She had both kids and adults guffawing at her slapstick impersonations.

The show finished on a final welcome note of nostalgia, with the cast rocking out to the theme song of Round the Twist, a late 90s television adaption of Jennings’ books. (Although apparently it is still running on ABC2!)

Though allegedly a show for eight-year-olds and up, Stage Fright was met with rapture and delight by audience critics under five, ten, and well over 20 and 30! This show is highly recommended as a rewarding family outing.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

By Richard Tulloch, based on the stories of Paul Jennings
Director: Ali Kennedy-Scott
Designers: Andrea Espinosa and Gez Manfield
Cast: Jamie Collette, Gideon Cordover, Tina Jackson, Rose Purse, and Emily Sheehan

New Theatre, 542 King Street Newtown
January 12th–28th, 2012
Bookings and Information: 1300 13 11 88 |

Bernadette Burke

Thursday 19 January, 2012

About the author

I am a radio presenter/producer, writer and curator from Sydney, Australia. My creative career began as a roadie/lighting assistant, and eventually I became a live sound engineer, working freelance in Sydney, then at the renowned 12 Bar Club in London, U.K. Moving on to interviewing bands, reviewing gigs, albums and writing music features later was a beautiful, natural progression for me. I am now a full time freelance music journalist working across print, online, radio and video production. More info: