Review: Ensomblah: A Second Serve

Written by Loren Rae.

Last night, I had the most wonderful reminder. Like an old friend tapped me on the shoulder and with one smile, reminded me of our history. I went and saw a small show called Ensomblah: A Second Serve, a sequel to its predecessor Ensomblah, and I was once again welcomed and swept away in the magic of community theatre. Being a variety show, it was a theatrical spread of all different musical numbers, which celebrated and appreciated the ensemble. This show, with a cast no bigger than fourteen, brought into vivid colour how much power lies in the connection of a group.

I went into this show alone and questioned where my expectations lied. I am no stranger to all the clichés and judgements of what small theatre means to people. I have stood on a stage and felt that glare of belittlement before. Being someone who has performed small shows for a number of years in the exact theatre that Ensomblah was performed in, a lot of these harsh judgements came flooding back in a wave of anxiety. Does the audience expect the stumbles? The obviousness of underdevelopment in production? The faults with lighting or cues? The shaking of nervous voices? Where do we draw the line of what quality theatre means? What took over my mind, as I sat in the dark waiting for the show to commence, was a mixture of those awful stereotypes that drown small shows, and also perhaps what potentially lay before me. In an audience of not much more than forty, I am so ecstatic to say that this show presented by Deakin’s Burwood Student Theatre Company, or BuST Co, was a roaring stretch away from the cliché.

This show of great variety took an unexpected journey. A perfectly formed thread of emotional strain not only saw the audience laughing but, certainly in my case, brought to tears. Ensomblah: A Second Serve felt to be more than a connection of famous ensemble songs tied together and sung in succession. It was a carefully weaved wave of emotion, which reminded me of the power of togetherness. As from the first song, the absolute powerhouse voices behind the cast impressed audiences. The setlist entailed a trip through Wonderland, a visit to Matilda’s school, a vibrant circus with The Greatest Showman, a ‘High Adventure with Aladdin’, and let the audience feel found in Dear Evan Hansen.

Being enthralled in the emotion of the incredibly genuine talent of these performers was enough to make each audience member be a part of the multitudes of stories being told. Costumes of a glorious mess of colour connected every member on stage and even though the band was minimal, drew the perfect path for the actors to walk their journey on. What I saw witness to, was the all familiar hard work and heartache that is poured into getting a show on stage. What connections were made behind the curtain. How close each person on the team on stage was to one another. The support between the actors as each song took a different turn. An appeal of lights pulled the audience into songs of anger, deceit, pure joy and excitement. It isn’t to go without credit for the choreography as it was such a clever set and moved audiences into scenes and emotions of the unexcepted, as the dance was performed in such a neat and well-rehearsed way. With this, I direct this credit to show director Tamblyn Smith, who not only created the show, but was the stage manager, choreographer, costume designer, and lighting engineer.

A show of no protagonist, no villain, and no particular plot or characters created a story of what it means to be connected as individuals. How powerful individuality can be and the flairs of personality and identity within a cast. Having no centre spotlight on anyone, with no need to be, reminded me of how okay it is to be part of an ensemble in life. BuST Co performed more than a tribute to some brilliant songs in modern theatre, but transported an audience to a place of self-reassurance, that being with a good group of people can mean infinitely more than trying to take on the world alone.

Ensomblah: A Second Serve is running a strictly limited season from the 12th until the 20th April 2019, and with this, I urge you to see the show before it’s gone.

Get tickets at


Loren Rae’s work appears in the Power, Tension, and Order editions of WORDLY.

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