Theatre review: The Word, Abbotsford Convent

A youthful cast of 11 grapple with meaning and the power and absence of words.
The Word. On a dark stage a group of young people sit in a huddle. They wear shades of green and are turned to a young woman in the middle who is standing. Some of them point at her.

The Word by St Martin’s Youth Arts Centre explores the power of words in a thought-provoking ensemble production at the unique venue of the Magdalen Laundry in Abbotsford Convent. Upon arrival, audience members are asked to think about their own words and this helps set the mindset for seeing the show. It is full of interesting ideas about finding our own words and their meanings for individuals and communities.

Theatre provides an ideal space for this discussion, as it can not only offer a means for expressing words, but it is also a physical medium that allows for body language and the absence of words to be examined. The production has many individual scenes that investigate these ideas. There is a hit-and-miss element to this, as not all scenes are as engaging as others, but there are plenty of memorable moments. 

The show has 11 young cast members and they share the stage with experience beyond their years. The production gives each of the performers a chance to be the focus of the show and there are clear benefits to their personal development as performers. One of the exciting elements of The Word is seeing the potential in the room. 

The venue is a large warehouse-like space where the convent’s laundry was originally handled by young women who had been taken in by the nuns. The production makes good use of the space and its unique sound and lighting possibilities, which add atmosphere and are well thought out and executed. The show includes some interactive elements that also contribute to the experience and help engage the audience in the process of thinking about their own words. 

There are several songs performed throughout and, in a production about words, the power and evocativeness of such lyrics add another dimension. In the mix of original songs and covers, the original ones carry greater impact as they are an extension of the self-expression of the performers. While the covers are performed well, they don’t have the same connection to the cast.

There is an overarching storyline about two gangs in conflict with each other. The story doesn’t really develop over the course of the production and could easily have been cut, with the show stronger without it. Instead, this plot becomes distracting as it creates an expectation of further narrative development that is unfulfilled and, moreover, unnecessary in the context of the material being explored. 

Read: Exhibition review: Andrew Fyfe, Joanna Wolthuizen, Lee-Anne Raymond, Demetrios Vakras, SOL Gallery

The Word is entertaining and has a lot of thought-provoking content. While not without its flaws, there is something there for most theatre-goers. The young cast has plenty of potential and this alone makes it worth spreading the word about this production. 

The Word
by St Martins Youth Arts Centre
Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne
Script: Michele Lee, Michael Carmody, Nadja Kostich and The Word cast 
Director: Nadja Kostich  

Directing Intern: Clea Carney 
Writing Intern: Spike Angwin
Stage Management Intern: Alice Coffey 
Composer and Sound Designer: Allara Briggs Pattison  
Choreographic Artist: Bridget Fiske 
Video Designer: Michael Carmody  
Set and Costume Designer: Matilda Woodroofe  
Lighting Designer: Richard Vabre  
Assistant Director: Alice Qin 
Producer: Lara Week  
Production Manager: Kofi Isaacs  
Stage Manager: Steph Young  
Sound and Technical Consultant: Justin Gardam

Production Assistant: Julia Landberg 
Photographer and Graphic Designer: Jason Cheetham 

Performers: Frankie Lee Willcox, Grace Annan, Harris Tate Elliott, Harriet Turner-Browne, Jackson Reid, Kleopatra Dukas, Noray Hosny, Oscar Munro, Spike Angwin, Sunday Bickford, Vito van Hout 

Tickets: Free-$60

The Word will be performed until 26 May 2024.

Kim Hitchcock is a freelance writer based in Melbourne who has an interest in all art forms and enjoys exploring them locally and abroad. He has completed a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne and can be reached at