The Gathering is a new musical co-written by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin, directed by Chris Parker and musically directed by Daniel Puckey. Opening at fortyfivedownstairs this week, and supported by the city of Melbourne Arts grants program, this new Australian work takes a Gen Y look at friendships, relationships and letting people in, set to a pop-rock score.
As the audience files into their seats, a lone 20-something vacuums his patchy carpet in a run-down place filled with boxes and old furniture. People start to arrive. Tom has invited some mates over for a housewarming get-together, but tensions immediately become apparent, as his guests prod him for answers about his disappearance five years ago – and his seemingly inexplicable return. Tom avoids the questioning, but he can’t avoid the reality of how much things, and people, can change in five years. Five years is a long time, and things get complicated.
The 75-minute one-act show has a surprising amount of twists and turns, not only in plot, but in tone and focus. There are some shocking revelations, some details of which may have been intentionally left open for interpretation. There are some unanswered questions – certain plot points are abandoned, and some character inconsistencies are there. However, the grittier moments in The Gathering bring about some of its more powerful scenes.
The piece is performed by a very talented group of young artists. Joel Granger is captivating and vulnerable as Tom, a young man struggling with his own dark secrets. Shannen Alyce Quan delivers a strong dynamic performance as Tom’s sister Kelly, and Daniel Assetta is engaging as Kelly’s energetic best friend Luke. Hannah Sullivan McInerney, Olivia Charalambous and Daniel Cosgrove round out the impressive cast; not a single note was out of place among them. The group harmonies were performed flawlessly and a particular highlight of the production. The score includes some wonderful songs; at times the music is stronger than the lyrics, but these lines were navigated with nuance by the cast.
The Gathering could go on to be reworked to be even better and more cohesive – perhaps the compelling Gothic themes could be explored more in further rewrite – and as promising and entertaining new Australian musical, I am excited to see where it goes.