Upon entering the Union Theatre auditorium for the first time, I was immediately captivated by the welcoming ambiance created by the quirky cafe set and atmospheric music. The theatre space is bright, spacious, and promising, and as I eagerly anticipated the play, I couldn’t help but appreciate Karl Chaundy’s design, reminiscent of the Friends Central Perk café with a kitschy twist, adding a charming touch.
As the audience settle in, two characters join us, sparking intrigue. Bailey (portrayed by the outstanding Maddy Wiggs) encounters a mysterious man (Lawrence Harp), and their unfolding date unveils a layer of awkwardness that leads to more questions. Meanwhile, Loralie (Isabelle Wooley) repeatedly finds herself at this peculiar coffee shop, navigating terrible service, strange decorations, and a lack of customers, all amidst the constant backdrop of rattling trains.
Wiggs deserves special commendation for her portrayal of Bailey. She transforms what could be a stereotypical ‘quirky girl’ into a nuanced, multi-layered, and relatable character. The actor shines in Bailey’s most vulnerable moments, bringing authenticity and depth to the performance.
As engaging as the characters are, the pacing of the play feels inconsistent. While I understand the desire for an ‘off-beat’ element, it occasionally translates into moments of monotone acting and a lack of energy. The potential for humour and depth is present in the writing by MaggieMarie Casto, but the delivery often feels forced, missing chances to truly bring the text to life.
The play successfully tackles challenging themes such as friendship, dating, and mortality with a light-hearted touch, whilst still maintaining its depth, and humour is skilfully infused into the narrative, adding an enjoyable element. However, the stakes need to be increased in the second part to heighten the tension and engagement, thus allowing the audience to fully invest in the characters.
I found the cast’s overall performance to be uneven. Some constructive criticism from Casto as director would be beneficial in enhancing the overall delivery, encouraging them to truly live the text and create a more dynamic performance.
Weird Place offers a unique and charming experience with memorable characters, especially thanks to Wiggs’ standout performance, but there are many missed opportunities to polish the work and make it that much better. With some adjustments to pacing and energy, coupled with constructive feedback for the cast, there is potential to elevate its impact and provide a more immersive and engaging experience for the audience.
Written and Directed by: MaggieMarie Casto
Designed by: Karl Chaundy
Produced by: Emily Rennie & Su Kim
Weird Place has completed its current run at Union Theatre.