Tag: Heidi Arena

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.

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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

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Review: MTC presents THE OTHER PLACE

Compelling and wrenching theatre

By Christine Moffat

The Other Place by Sharr White is one of the best-written pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time.

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It is a fabulous double mystery: the cause of the mental disorientation of Juliana (Catherine McClements), and the discovery of what really happened at ‘the other place’.  The answer to each is dark and gut-wrenching, but the play is a clever combination of bittersweet humour and authentic characters.

Tragic stories can sometimes be too brutal to be enjoyed, but director Nadia Tass has evoked a delicacy from the text, creating a production that is simultaneously saddening and relatable.  This makes for a show in which the audience invests; we want to watch because we care.  At opening night this reviewer and many other audience members of various ages were in tears, and more than once.

Due to the disjointed timeline of the play, it’s a tough journey for the actors.  All of the cast were superb, with McClements in the lead role of Juliana and Heidi Arena as ‘A Woman’ being the standouts.  McClements beautifully navigated the alternating acidity and vulnerability of Juliana.  Arena played several roles, all with great humour, one with incredible pathos, and jumped between the scenarios ably.  However, I believe that more could have been done visually to differentiate between her roles.  I think this would have been less distracting for the audience, as playing different people only moments apart is difficult feat to achieve through performance alone.  David Roberts’ performance of Ian was touching and at times confronting, making his portrayal all the more believable given Ian’s circumstances.  David Whitely as ‘A Man’ had very few scenes, but he was very engaging in the stage time they allowed him.

The set design by Shaun Gurton was minimal and incredibly well-suited to the show.  The transitions between locations were elegant and the sense of place was fantastic.  The use of multimedia, via a giant screen at the back of the stage, was well-integrated and added to each setting in obvious or subtle ways without ever being distracting.

This production has obviously benefited from the talent and hard work of every person involved.  I found the story almost unbearably tragic, but the telling of it is too well-executed to miss.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

Dates: 2 February to 2 March

Tickets: From $58, Under 30 $33

Bookings: Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au; Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183 or artscentremelbourne.com.au