The Rehearsal Adam-Fresco'S REVIEW

The Rehearsal is a dramatic coming-of-age tale with solid direction from Alison Maclean, who co-wrote the screenplay with author Emily Perkins. It’s adapted from the debut novel by Eleanor Catton, who gets a brief cameo, as does a copy of her Booker-prize-winning tome, ‘The Luminaries’.

Dealing with some serious issues and sexual shenanigans, it’s entertaining, well-crafted, and provides plenty of intellectual engagement in the moral quagmire it presents, but never quite connects on an emotional level.

The acting is great, with James Rolleston, Ella Edward and the rest of the ensemble cast shining bright. It’s decidedly awkward watching young actors play first-year drama students going through their paces as they’re trained to “emote” by Kerry Fox’s unforgiving acting coach - especially so when Rolleston’s character, Stanley, chooses to use the scandalous secrets of his girlfriend’s family as the basis for an end-of-year stage show at their elite, fictional, Auckland drama school.

As Catton wrote in her original: “The stage is a place where we can witness things in such a way that it becomes unnecessary for us to feel or perform these things ourselves.” But to feel for fictional characters, we do need to connect emotionally, and, despite a solid central story, perhaps the screenplay jettisons too much of the source material to succeed completely. Nonetheless, The Rehearsal remains a well-made and superbly performed tale. It may not be dazzling, but it is an engaging drama that deserves to be seen on the big screen.