– by Rose Maurice
The Record Store
Thursday–Saturday 21 March
Upon entering The Record Store on Thursday night and sitting down on the comfortable couches facing two microphones, the audience expected nothing more than to watch a live performance of a vintage Australian radio play first created in 1932. Little did they know what was in store for them.
Jillian Carruthers: Girl Reporter follows Jillian (Chris Ryan) as she arrives in Canberra to report on its brand new arts festival. Initially arriving in Queanbeyan, she is whisked into the city centre where she learns about the festival and the town itself. She soon comes into some trouble which is typical of the radio play genre.
Created by Chris Ryan and Nick Smith, the performance cleverly juxtaposes elements from the early 20th century radio play genre with 21st century issues and humour, along with slapstick and visual jokes which break the fourth wall with amazing results.
The production also cleverly blurs the lines between the play’s apparent 1932 setting and the modern day world. The actors’ tweed costumes and the sound of a steam engine establish the play’s 1932 aesthetic. Yet the play also cheekily pokes fun at contemporary issues such as gender inequality. Such lines as “Women will next be demanding library cards and wages” could initially be considered part of the play’s context. Yet, when accompanied by later jabs which suggest that a woman could never be Foreign Minister, it is clear that the play is commenting on our society’s changing values today.
One of Jillian Carruther’s key strengths is the way in which it parodies the radio genre. While radio stories must rely on audio alone to tell a story, Thursday’s production allowed for visual humour to enhance the experience. A key example of this was when two characters were walking down the street and being accompanied by a sound clip of people walking. This was visually accompanied with the two actors momentarily checking their iPhones. However, when Jillian demanded that the action be described to her, as if she couldn’t see it, the audience was again reminded of how radio is limited to audio.
The play also featured improvised interviews with other performers from the YAH festival. While Ryans stayed in character, those interviewed were their genuine selves. In these interviews, Ryans and interviewees promoted other performances that were happening throughout the festival. The realism of these segments also highlighted the theatrical aspects of the play and provided Ryans with more comedic material. An instance of this was when she reacted prudishly to the band name Finger Your Friends.
Jillian Carruthers was an audio-visual delight that paid homage, whilst also parodying, the old-fashioned radio play genre. This experimental piece’s initial suggestion to “close your eyes if you wish” was, thankfully, ignored.
Rose Maurice has a happy life surrounded by words. As a recent graduate from the ANU with a degree in Literature and History, she now works in a bookshop. Rose has an amateur background in performance poetry and has a tendency to write poems and short story ideas on the back of receipts and in the covers of novels she is reading. She loves to explore, dance, dream and midnight bike rides.