As part of the Ceasefire Series, The Cultch, Nov 7-17th
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Charlie Upton
There are a lot of ideas in Three Winters. Amiel Gladstone has taken the personal stories of his grandfather's experience in the Stalag Luft III POW camp, and adapted them into a stage play which clearly has a lot of heart yet somehow feels lacking in delivery.
One of the main marketing points of the show ultimately ended up being one of the most problematic. I am all for all-female casts, I am also for bending gender lines and challenging traditional rules of theatre. Unfortunately, there was not enough distinction between the characters as the cast changed roles multiple times during the shows lengthy-feeling 80 mins. Whilst a decision was made here to not use any accents, other performative options to distinguish character in physicality and voice were either not fully realised or not present at all. It felt confusing at the best of times.
The interweaving storylines also are difficult to follow. With difficulty distinguishing characters and timelines, when the big gut-punch emotion moments arose, I did not feel connected.
There are a lot of very, very good elements at play here. The all-female cast of seven are very talented, without exception. The use of physical theatre elements and stylised movement was right up my alley, and indeed my favourite moments in the show were those which called on these devices. The tech design and ques were tight with lighting (by Sara Smith) and sound (by Sammie Hatch) complimenting each other perfectly. The set design by Adrian Muir is genius in its minimalist complexity. I loved seeing how only a few stools, chairs and benches could transform the cosy Cultch stage in a matter of moments. The main piece being a rotating structure which works perfectly for its many incarnations. The cast do well to handle all these changes seamlessly and without distraction to the story.
There will be many people who really enjoy this production, and there is certainly a lot to be applauded. Ultimately I wasn't drawn into the world. I didn't feel the deep importance, and reverence, of the story.
By Blake Hepburn
I’m not very confident in the kitchen. I can get by, but I’m not really proud of what I make, you know? I often try to follow recipes, in order to make a more polished product. I mention all of this, because I feel like Three Winters has all of the ingredients for a successful play.
The story is set in a World War II prison camp, complete with a dramatic plane crash beginning, and escape attempts. The prisoners even put on plays to keep themselves entertained! There are moments where we learn about the dreams and fears soldiers have for their futures, and the challenges they face during and after the camp. This play shows us so much about hope and perseverance.
The performers were all strong and clear, with all of the nuance and emotion you could ask for. The bold choice to cast women pays off, and after an initial adjustment, feels quite natural. The only moment where it gets a bit more demanding of the audience is when a male character is playing a female character in the play-within-the-play. These actors are up to the challenge, though, and consistently impressed.
The technical side of the show flowed seamlessly. Simple, bold choices were made, and the choreography of actors moving set pieces around became part of the story-telling, rather than a distraction. When a scenes can take place in physical tunnels and still feel accessible from the balcony, you know there are some hard-working, creative people behind the scenes.
All of the elements of Three Winters were strong and impressive. It follows every recipe I could make for a good play, but something about the show didn’t quite click for me, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I wanted more time to learn about the individuals stories in the camp? There were a couple moments when I felt pulled in too many directions inside the camp: play, tunnel, individual stories. Despite my confusion, I was moved by the ending of the play, and recommend seeing it. We need more brave, compassionate shows that challenge how we represent our history.