FRINGEWORLD 2017 – Well Mannered (2.5 stars)

When it comes to being polite, how far is too far? Do the rules of being Well Mannered take into account human emotions? Does protocol hinder your moral compass? Three siblings face the ultimate dilemma – do they remain polite and follow the rigidity of decorum, or flout the rules to potentially save a life?

We first encounter the siblings as children – Gracie (Taryn Ryan) and Jason (Hayden Wilson) play tea parties and trains under the watchful eye of older sister, Wendy (Melissa Ettler.) Their childlike games and stories provide a teachable moment for Wendy, as she explains the conventions of manners – don’t interrupt without saying pardon, always listen. Unfortunately, the acting is quite clumsy here, the child-like expressions and inflections seem less crafted and more contrived than the intention. Upon discovering a man trapped at the bottom of a well, the children must make a decision. Each child copes according to his/her personality, however neither personality is overly strong. This has the potential to be deeply psychological and in the hands of emerging artists, is well executed to their burgeoning abilities.

There are moments when we see the actors regress to their child-like personas while hosting a, supposedly, civil dinner party as adults years later. As the tension rises and reaches fever pitch, the pace is so quick with polite conventions being shot out as though they are bullets (one must always say pardon) the manners are spoken in a ritualistic manner, at the height of a sacrificial moment of violence.

Well Mannered is strange and quite clever. It is a faithful homage to some of the great gothic tales of theatre, and with a little tweaking will be a brilliant piece. Expect more from these theatre-makers as they gain more experience around the Perth stage. Remember: at times, it seems being nice may not always be the right answer.

When: 20th – 22nd January 2017 | 4:00pm and 7:15pm

Where: The Blue Room Theatre, PERTH

Tickets: $19 – $21

Info: Part of The Blue Room’s Summer Nights Program