[THEATRE REVIEW] THE LAST TRAIN TO MADELINE @ Meat Market Stables Review (2024)

If you are looking to attend a superbly executed, exciting and energetic new play, featuring top notch acting, look no further than Fever103 Theatre’s the last train to madeline. It is a breath of fresh air.

The piece charts the highly fraught but loving relationship between Maddy and Luke over 15 years.

As eight-year-olds in 2003, they are at school together and live next door to one another in Wangaratta.

The action jumps back and forth from then, to them at 17 and again at 23.

Maddy doesn’t ride with the pack. She is strong willed, spirited, a risk taker, with a troublesome home life.

She doesn’t get along with her mother and is desperate to track down her father, whom she doesn’t know, but paints as a famous rock star.

Friendless, her real love is music.

The start of her relationship with the conservative and responsible Luke (which coincides with the start of the play) is when she steals his mother’s video camera.

In no time, the pair becomes inseparable and continue to hang out together.

They care deeply about one another, but inevitably their lives go in different directions.

She is desperate to leave Wangaratta, while he is content to forge a life and career in the Victorian rural city.

Still, their connection endures through the many highs and lows they experience, which includes six years apart.

Thy play and fight; they laugh and lie and love.

Importantly, because of actors Ruby Maishman and Eddie Orton’s performances in this two-hander, we – the audience – get to care very much about them too.

We want them to work things out – to navigate the vicissitudes of life and come out the other end stronger and more fulfilled.

Writer Callum Mackay’s words resonate strongly throughout. It is a stunning piece of work about hope and dreams and nostalgia. His prose leaps from the page to the stage. His development of character is remarkable.

That is where the performances take over and breathe so much life into the players.

I am in awe of Maishman and Orton. Oh my, they are not just good; they are great.

They exude the traits of eight, 17 and 23-year-olds with aplomb. They are so natural … so credible. They transform into Maddy and Luke.

Time and again, they transition through the various ages with distinction. What bravura showings!

And then there is the staging, the sound and the lighting – simply superlative.

With train tracks in the foreground and overgrown foliage with cavernous graffitied concrete behind, the sprawling set design by Savanna Wegman is highly evocative.

Wegman, who is also responsible for costuming, has clearly excelled in crafting a setting with bite, into which she has woven three old style televisions.

These display reflective imagery and signal chapters in Maddy and Luke’s lives, with live streaming being part of the offering.

Spencer Herd’s lighting design and Oliver Beard’s sound design and composition add greatly to the spectacle and belief engendered in the audience. Plaudits to both.

The lighting has an ethereal quality to it and includes a stunning silhouette scene, while the sound combines realistic effects with head banging music stings.

the last train to madeline is, indeed, a very special production, one of the year’s best, in no short measure because of the tight direction of Hayden Tonazzi. He ensures the pacing never wanes. I was hanging on every word in this brilliant play, which is on at Meat Market Stables in North Melbourne until 29th June, 2024.

Review by Alex First Photography by Liv Morison