Tag: Alison Bell

Eddie Perfect’s THE BEAST

Relentless satire and fiercely funny

By Bradley Storer

Eddie Perfect’s The Beast, under the direction of Simon Phillips, has made its return to Melbourne at the Comedy Theatre, and set its sights squarely on the Australian middle class. A vicious and satirical examination of class warfare of this ilk hasn’t been seen since the like of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnagebe warned, there will be (literal) blood.

The Beast.jpg

The piece seems particularly suited to a Melbourne audience – the skewering of the affluent and aspirational upper middle class and their conflicts of status anxiety were met with uproarious laughter and applause, with a sense that these people were entirely familiar to those in the crowd.

Alison Bell as the acerbic outsider Marge drew big laughs with her biting wit, and a bone-dry sarcasm that was wielded to maximum effect in every scene. The warmth underneath the barbs was obvious in her interactions with her husband Baird, played by Perfect in addition to writing the text. Perfect touchingly conveys an average man doomed to the eternal ridicule of his pretentious friends while never fully understanding why – the character’s reversal of fortune in a cunning coup later in the piece, while satisfying to watch, feels almost too contrived and convenient to the plot.

Rohan Nichol was astonishingly awful as the smarmy self-appointed ‘leader’ of the male trio Simon, managing to elicit groans with his overbearing sense of entitlement and arrogance, while Christie Whelan Browne as his put-upon wife Gen was the perfect mixture of air-headed sweetness and burning resentment that exploded into some truly hilarious antics during the dinner party scene.

The only weakpoint of the sextet is the third couple – Toby Truslove as the rapidly crumbling Rob manages to find the underlying sweetness and sensitivity of the character but it never fully coalesces into a full characterization beyond the character’s overall oddball escapades and quirks. Heidi Arena as Sue fully commits to her character’s smiling and cheerful hypocrisies but has been directed to play so big that it feels self-consciously artificial to the point of caricature. Peter Houghton ably plays a variety of smaller roles, managed to shift chameleon-like into different characters so diverse that he is almost unrecognizable between them.

While the middle section of the play is wonderfully structured and cleverly written, with a scene involving the slaughter of a cow that had the audience falling out of their seats laughing, the opening scene and the underlying mystery which it wraps around the rest of the piece appears so out of place (and is dealt with so quickly at the conclusion) that it seems almost unnecessary to have them.  Watching these characters scrap and vie for dominion is so entertaining in itself and artfully depicted that I would have gladly watched it all night!

Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000

Date: 25th August – 10th September

Times: Wednesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 1pm & 5pm

Prices: $79.90 – $129.90

Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au, Ph: 1300 723 038, at the box office.

Image by Ken Nakanishi

REVIEW: MTC Presents BETRAYAL

You’ll be talking about it afterwards…

By Caitlin McGrane

Harold Pinter’s seminal and affecting play Betrayal transports the audience back to London in the 1970s, a time historically associated with sexual liberation and experimentation. Emma (Alison Bell) and Jerry (Nathan O’Keefe) have had an affair for seven years; they have a flat where they meet on afternoons to escape from their spouses and families. While Jerry’s wife is only ever alluded to, Emma’s husband Robert (Mark Saturno) is Jerry’s best friend and plays second fiddle to Emma and Jerry while they conduct their illicit affair.

Betrayal. Photo by Shane Reid

Emma’s marriage is clearly violent and unhappy, and while the script is tight and trimmed of all fat, it is a crying shame that Robert gets all the best lines. To Saturno’s credit he delivers the lines extremely well, but it is still jarring for a character so repugnant to be so well received. Bell shines as Emma, lending an often-needed lightness to a woman troubled and conflicted. Pinter is known for his silences, and Bell was fearless letting them hang over the audience. I also enjoyed O’Keefe as the spineless Jerry whose selfishness regarding Emma is matched only by Robert’s concern about her as his possession. I walked away from the theatre reminded once again of the astonishing selfish fragility of the male ego: I want to go for drinks with Emma and roll our eyes at men’s ridiculous desire to control and subjugate women; I’d like to watch a spin-off about Emma and what she did without Robert.

Director Geordie Brookman and lighting and set designer Geoff Cobham have constructed a mis en scene that evokes the spirit of the time, with scene changes taking place like a record; nearly all costume changes occur on stage, the actors seeming to choose their clothes from a rotating rack, which was a novel and interesting way of showing Emma and Jerry’s intimacy. The soundtrack, composed by Jason Sweeney, is harsh yet strangely effective at reflecting the mood of each scene.

In all, Betrayal was an excellent way to spend Saturday night, and I would highly recommend seeing it then dissecting it over wine with friends. Betrayal is showing at MTC’s Southbank Theatre until 3 October 2015. Tickets available here: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/mainstage-2015/betrayal/

Image by Shane Reid