Jake Stewart may be one of the best young theatre writers working now. There was a joke regarding a comparison with Stewart’s writing and Tennessee Williams, it’s a joke, but it also has truth to it (please take this as a compliment)! There are strong parallels between the way both have constructed their plays and Stewart, in my opinion, is a modern version in many ways.
5 Stars is a play within a play, within a play, shaped by the playwright’s adoration for an actor that was then reshaped by lockdowns and the personal changes that both went through. The strength of 5 Stars stems from the sincerity and chemistry between Jake Stewart and Joel Beasley that is so heart-warming, they’re like partners in theatrical camp, and I loved every second of it.
The second Stewart and Beasley stepped onto the stage; I fell for them. Stewart seemed soul bearing and honest. There was a vulnerability on his face, almost like he was anxious about the audience’s reaction to this creation. But they loved it. There were so many smiles in the audience, everyone was engaged, and feeling moved in the most emotional moments.
Beasley is charm personified. He has a natural sweetness; you can’t help but be charmed by him when he’s playing a Christmas elf, and it’s some of the most wholesome stuff I’ve ever seen. Every moment that he’s on stage he appears to be having so much fun, it’s truly infectious. Stewart is as wonderful performing as he is a writer, his role as a performer and writer doesn’t seem like a vanity choice. Instead, it comes across as more protective, perhaps stemming from him putting so much work into his creation that having another actor playing the part would feel wrong. This is obviously just my own feelings, but there is so much love and passion in every moment of 5 Stars that it’s difficult for me to not feel this way.
The story itself is actually very unique, there are the same general themes as a regular rom com, but they’ve been entirely flipped, there’s never an eye roll moment where the characters do something unbelievable or completely removed from reality. The originality doesn’t just come from this being a queer story, the writing is stellar because the writer is talented, the true emotion behind it is from the actors, and their ability to translate Stewart’s writing to the stage.
5 Stars is difficult to fully describe without giving away its full story, but it was completely different to what I expected, and it surprised me. It wasn’t like I had been deceived; it was just so much more than the brief blurb in its online description. There were so many layers and different elements that I thoroughly enjoyed, to the point where I left the show with a huge smile on my face, as did my company.
5 Stars is goofy, happy, captivating, and it was great to leave a theatre show with my partner that had us both feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
5 Stars is playing at Theatre Works in Melbourne until the 25th of June.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://www.theatreworks.org.au/program/5-stars