Fourthcoming (Shake & Stir) – theatre review

Brisbane theatre company Shake & Stir has brought audiences many exciting theatre experiences (A Christmas Carol, Roald Dahl stories, Animal Farm). Their latest, Fourthcoming, is sure to be another hit. At various points, Fourthcoming invites audience members to use their smartphones to choose a path for the characters in the show. Whichever answer receives the most votes, the actors have to run with.

Photos by David Fell

Nelle Lee is the very talented writer. Whichever version a particular night’s audience ends up seeing, there remains 100 minutes of unseen material. It certainly puts a lot of onus on the two actors, Cece Peters and Johnny Balbuziente, who must remember the relevant lines of the chosen thread. They do it in tour de force comic performances that turn the energy level up to 11. One thing’s for sure – you will be laughing much of the time.

Billed as a romantic comedy, while Fourthcoming is funny, it’s not necessarily romantic. Considering the refreshing choose-your-own adventure technique, it steers away from the rom-com formula. The play also puts a spotlight on the numerous anxieties for a single, 30-something woman in a social media-obsessed world.

Peters’ character, Gwen, is a pub trivia host whose heavy drinking has led to too many hangovers and ‘What was I thinking?’ moments after drunken hook-ups. She decides it’s time to meet someone she can form an actual relationship with. Perhaps she can even have some sober sex. This is where the TV reality dating show aspect enters the equation, which is somewhat strange considering Balbuziente did appear in a recent series of Married at First Sight. The actor shows off his considerable talents, playing four potential matches for Gwen, who are introduced reality show-style on large screens. The guys are all broadly drawn, ridiculous people who are all the funnier for it. And yet they have a lot of heart and Gwen has a soft spot for all of them. But who will she choose? Well, that’s up to the audience.

Co-Directors Nick Skubij and Nelle Lee have clearly had a lot of fun with a play that’s unashamedly feel-good in these not-quite-post-pandemic times. They have brought out the ample comedic talents of Peters and Balbuziente and the energy level rarely drops. The brilliant visuals involve huge moving panels with video screens and full credit goes to set designer Josh McIntosh, video designer Craig Wilkinson and the head of video and audio Caitlyn Kidney.

While Fourthcoming definitely appears aimed at the 18 – 35 age group, older audiences should also enjoy its no-holds-barred, sexy look at dating in the swipe-left-or-right age.

Fourthcoming is at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC,Brisbane until 7 November 2021

Vicki Englund

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