Kissing Booth trails the debacles of four university-aged adults as they flock together in awkward get-togethers and interpersonal relationships, which culminate in a shocking conclusion.
N.U.D.E.’s first ever production is generally well put together, with the set kept minimal but effectively dressed, and set pieces – especially the cumbersome kissing booth – used economically and cleverly.
The production’s stronger moments, such as Ingrid (Rosie Yates) and Oliver (Matt Killick)’s big argument, are incredibly powerful and engaging. When Ingrid’s sarcastic demeanour reveals itself to be a façade, we are faced with her vulnerable, heartfelt loss. Her humanness in this scene successfully carries the script transition into near melodrama, while Yates’ performance perfectly complements Killick’s helpless, regretful Oliver, who is entirely out of his depth.
Ethan (Tim Dennett) and Sharna (Shona Warren)’s platonic friendship is also genuinely sweet, and the scenes between them allow both characters to express more complex dimensions to their personalities.
The show is strongest when it finds its natural rhythm, and the engaging performances never slack. However, the pace and tension occasionally dropped during the shared use of the same doorway for simultaneous entrances and exits, which became a more noticeable problem only towards the final few scenes.
Thoughtful moments in Dominic Weintraub’s direction included the party scenes, which played on sitcom conventions to convincingly establish raucous, celebratory moods despite the cavernous Guild Theatre and small cast. The non-naturalistic post-interval scene between Ethan and Sharna was also handled particularly well.
However, the play lacks clear content warnings for discussions of miscarriage, implied self-harm, and suicide. After a first act that is generally amusing and light, the sudden revelation of these themes is entirely unexpected and slightly uncomfortable.
N.U.D.E.’s Kissing Booth is indisputably funny, with the cast displaying a good sense of comic timing. The production is able to overcome a clumsy script to do a truly remarkable job with its small team.
Kissing Booth is running in the Guild Theatre, Union House, Melbourne University from 20-23 May. Tickets can be purchased here.
Photography: Bridie Allen