Fringe review: The Beep Test

The class of Year 7C takes audiences on a musical trip back to school PE classes – and perhaps the dread that came with them. ★★★★★

Mar 02, 2023, updated Mar 02, 2023

Acromat gym mats line the front of the stage where a stack of lockers and a graffiti-covered blackboard complete the set.

There’s a voice that sounds familiar, and which could be anxiety-inducing for some. It emanates from a recording, introducing the “multi-stage fitness test”. As it begins, the audience meets PE teacher Sir (Lachie Hewson), a moustache-wearing and gym-bag-carrying teacher with a bone-rattling yell who is preparing the yearly beep test for Year 7C.

He is joined by Year 7C in the form of Jane, Cooper, Zach and Sandra, all of whom are competing to win their PE class beep test. Jane (Sara Reed) is the gritty underdog trying to beat sports captain and last year’s cocky winner Zach (Josh Reckless). Cooper (Jack Keen) is the daggy nerd seeking to win good favour with Sandra (Jo Jabalde), who is always top of everything at school. As the test continues, more is revealed about why each of the students so badly want to win.

The cast members give energetic and accomplished performances as they manage high-quality singing and dancing throughout The Beep Test, which is presented by young Australian musical theatre writing duo Conor Neylon and Jackson Peele (Neylon & Peele).

Every element of the theatre is exploited to tell the story. Lighting designer Gabriel Bethune cleverly uses spotlights and dramatic changes in lighting to create many moments of hilarity through false song-starts and the playing up of tropes. The choreography is playful and engaging, making use of every part of the stage.

Sir’s fondness and encouragement for sportsman Zach is revealed to be influenced by his own childhood dreams of being an AFL star, offering a point of reflection for the audience. Overall, The Beep Test is a reminder that everyone we meet has a reason for being the way they are; we all show up to the world differently, with our own dreams and aspirations.

Neylon and Peele’s music and lyrics, under the musical direction of accompanist Mark Bradley, hit the mark with comedic timing and pleasing arrangements.

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The Beep Test is a ridiculously fun, fast-paced, and witty walk down memory lane for those who have grown up in Australia mildly traumatised from the pressure of the beep test.

The Beep Test is at The Studio at Holden Street Theatres until March 5.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

Shannon Pearce is the third recipient of the Helpmann Academy InReview Mentorship. She is working with experienced writers Graham Strahle and Samela Harris to write a series of articles for publication in InReview.

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