Last panto in cyberspace - if only we could find a lead

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What does electronic gender bending have in common with amateur productions and fading opera singers?

The answer: absolutely nothing.... Except that they shared the same sound and lighting person. Tempo's latest one-act productions for the Wyong festival were probably more diverse than ever before but still, they managed to bring home the bacon. That is, Tempo players can be proud of their two well-earned, Wyong awards.

Cybergrrrls introduced Eve and Jerry Everard as new Canberra playwrights and attracted the 'Best unpublished Play' award. Mel (Naomi Hume) and Mogs (Eve Everard) are two high school friends who do some serious cyber trolling for possible mates. The only problem is that they are not too particular about how they represent themselves. The ensuing confusion is watched over drolly by a cyber wizard (Joanne Topperwien) who takes a more worldly view. Elizabeth and Andrew Topperwien added formidable off-stage voices.

 Director Jerry Everard's minimalist staging aptly represented the cerebral and isolating nature of Internet interaction. The girl's voices flattened and became 2-dimensional when communicating through their screens but they came alive again when they met in person at school.

Kim Wilson made his directing debut with The Casting of Rosalinda. This may have been a decision regretted many times before the play finally came together and sparkled at Wyong.

Helen (Janine O'Dwyer), a fading, almost-was- an-opera star decided to 'retire' with her faithful companion Nan (Elizabeth Topperwien), to a quiet country town where her funds might stretch a little further. Nan is grateful for the stability and perhaps predicability of their new life but obscurity is too much for Helen. Helen sets about plotting her comeback and manipulating just about everyone in the town and beyond. Lady Mountford (Ilene Boydew) and her lovely, talented niece, Joanna (Tara Mattheson), (once snubbed by Helen) come to exercise their power and to show that the world is really a very small place. In the meantime, Helen is locked in a battle of wits (Nan's wits) with the Mayor, Lydia Binns (Tempe Archer). Her cast arrives, Salome St John, (Katie Sledge) and we get to see what happens when you add a true star to the pandemonium.

The play managed to parallel the personalities and weather of Wyong well enough to successfully alienate the Mayor and the organising committee - an amazing and unpredicted outcome but still an irreplaceable experience for director and cast. Florence Fenton would have approved.

 Kate Wright received the best supporting actress award for Last Panto in West Wyong for her portrayal of Joyce, the timid and hopeless secretary to an amateur drama society. This is a play about what goes wrong when you are putting on a play.

While the cast had a very strong script and an experienced director in Miles Leon, it was the cast's sheer energy and physicality that brought the play to life. Art is pain, just ask 'prop man' Bernard (Luc Spencer-Gardener) who seemed to take repeated knocks and falls, or Gordon, the 'play's' director (Michael Weston) who contended with bumping, falling and flying benches. At one stage, Kate literally launched her career. Margaret (Lyn Drummond) was a strong antagonist to the mercurial Gordon-actor-director cum self appointed president and showed the true grit of amateur enthusiasts. The real crew (Andrew Topperwien and just about all the other play's actors) supplied the chaotic 'play' crew and Miles choreographed the mayhem like a symphony.

Miles Leon produced such expert lighting and sound for all three plays that Wyong asked him to stay. All in all, with or without the awards and job offers, the impression seems to be that the trip was worth it for cast and crew.