The dreary town of Gravel was anything but boring at their official opening night on Friday. The whole crowd was captivated by the mystery of the town’s people, and the queer circumstances of the constant string of murders in a town of only 46, or maybe 47 people.

First and foremost, congratulations to the talents of RadioMonash who were so affiliated with this production! Vivek Thilkan did a marvellous job of directing this motley crew to a wonderful performance, and I salute him in all his hard work! The cast moved seamlessly between characters and personas, definitely a tribute to Thilkan’s hard work. The show was pieced together with a simple set, with little comic elements, such as the cloth with the word “BUSH” scrawled upon it to disguise a filing cabinet as the outskirts of the town.

The murder case kept the audience guessing to the last minute as to who poisoned that pastie (or at least put peas in it), and that was testament to the delightfully engaging cast: Giorgia Cahoon, Felix Barnett, Ethan Katz and Louise Howard. Each of them brought such quick wit and wonderful expression to their roles; it was awesome to see such amazing young talent emerge for this performance and thrive as they did.

Katz and Howard may have taken on a plethora of characters, yet still none were left behind. Each of their characters took on the same Gravel-esque wit, and displayed the same level of nonsensical ignorance as the last, and never let a joke fall flat. The similarities between the characters could have easily detracted from the illusion, but instead, Howard and Katz brought it into their humour, giving Gravel its inbred township status that made it oh-so-endearing, and kind of creepy.

Cahoon went above and beyond in her portrayal of the not-quite-police officer, bringing a new grain of stupidity to the comedic caricature that she had masterfully curated. Somehow, the loveable idiot just continued to become more and more loveable as the show went on. She lit up the stage whenever she was present, and the audience could not get enough.

As for Barnett, the spark of sanity, the protagonist of a truly deluded plot, he was fantastic. He organised his character in such a way that the audience was constantly left wanting more from him; the perfect balance between big-city snob and down to earth guy looking for a big break. “Benjamin” as a character was a difficult role to bring such immense humour to in a play full of hilarious caricatures, yet Barnett managed to excel, with his dry wit and relatable discomfort ultimately paying off.

The township of Gravel may not have been the most exciting night out, but it sure as hell brought a lot to the table – a lot more than just a poisoned pastie.

4/5 stars

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