From August 15th until September 14th, The Ensemble presents the Australian Premiere of “Seminar”; play by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Anna Crawford.

I thought it was a brilliant play, but that’s because it resounded with me. In the words of the director herself, the play “reminded me what writers actually do for society- the fact that everything they write comes straight form their heart and they’re serving it up for us to be praised or ripped to shreds.” Featuring four aspiring and ambitious young writers, the play follows their journey as they embark on a term of seminars with a successful veteran writer who critiques their works and souls. I, myself, am an aspiring young writer, so I understood their jokes and frustrations. The play really connected with me and embarrassingly, I saw too much of myself in a number of the characters.

I do acknowledge, however, that the majority of the audience may not have been the target audience, so I heard many mixed reviews while coming out of the theatre. There were many laughs, but not all in the same places, so I tend to think that not everyone received the same jokes or came to the same understandings.

In my opinion, the play was slick, witty, smart, dark and a very interesting insight into the bowels if the creative industry- I expect the complications they encountered may not be specific to the writers but also relevant to musicians, artists and the like. I feel that the target audience may have been geared more toward young people, especially as the play presses buttons like Hopes and Dreams. With this in mind, I highly recommend seeing this play. I’m glad I did, I loved it. While I think people should see it, I understand that not everyone will necessarily appreciate it.

The character development was very much focused on learning about the motivations and background of each of the four writers, compared with the harsh reality that a veteran writer was presenting. The actors were absolutely fantastic. They played characters who must have been incredibly taxing, for an hour and a half straight. Their characters were powerfully intense, cynical, passionate for their cause, intelligent and very raw with their emotions, as most in the creative industry are. Their portrayals of these characters breathed life into dialogue and gave believability to their stories. For example, as the play opened, I heard the American accents (as the play is set in New York) and I sighed; “my, not another phoney US play” but the actors slipped into the mood, gathered momentum and soon after, we forgot about their accents and we listened to their despair, mourned their heartbreaks and condemned their resourcefulness when yearning to achieve their ambitions. Due credit must be given to Natasha McNamara as dialect coach on this production.

The set was wonderful, the lighting was perfect and the scene changes seamless. I can’t stipulate how difficult it is to produce a play set in the same apartment for the duration of the play and keep the audience involved. They achieved so with a very dialogue heavy script and intense conflicts, so the set became secondary. Nonetheless, the Ensemble never ceases to amaze me in their set design and ability to utilise and maximise space.


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