Tag: Sarah Hallam

North of Eight Presents TOYER

Inviting strangers to play

By Myron My

North of Eight is Melbourne’s new theatre company on the block and they return this month with their second show of their inaugural season, Gardner McKay’s Toyer. The Australian premiere of this psychological thriller takes place over roughly 24 hours with a stranger entering a woman’s life at a time when the city is being terrorised by a man who rapes his victims before lobotomising them.


Maude (Faran Martin) is a clinical psychiatrist who lives alone in her LA home in the hills and has recently drawn the attention of an unknown voyeur who watches her in the evenings. Peter (Kashmir Sinnamon) is a stranger who has just repaired Maude’s car and needs to use her phone to call his friend. With the “toyer” on the loose, so-called because he toys with his victims before he attacks, it might not be the safest option to let Peter inside, but he’s charming and friendly and makes Maude laugh, so should the risk outweigh the temptation?

Originally published in the early 90s, this play is unfortunately beginning to show its age, and what might have constituted suspenseful and dramatic material originally now results in frustration and disbelief at how the narrative progresses and the decisions the characters make. Coming in at just over two hours, the story becomes repetitive especially with the initial game of ‘will he or won’t he leave?’, and ‘is he or isn’t he the toyer?’ quickly wearing thin. There are some preposterous plot twists that occur, whereupon by the time the truth is revealed, there is very little surprise or interest to be had, and nor do we care what the fate of these characters will be.

While there is some thoughtful direction by Sarah Hallam that allows the actors time to fully comprehend the circumstances their characters find themselves in, there are moments when Martin’s performance seems too theatrical and the emotions her character expresses feel somewhat forced. Maude never feels genuine in her terror, the fault of which lies mainly with her character development in the story. However, there are instances when Sinnamon brings darker human elements to the surface with Peter that are able to ignite some interest from the audience – yet even this achievement can only be maintained for so long with this character before it starts to become predictable.

It really feels like McKay was so determined to create a thriller with Toyer that he ignored plot holes and the character development that could have kept his protagonists interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately the hard-working performances here suffer because of this, and there is unfortunately very little suspense to be felt. As a new theatre company, it would be great to see North of Eight performing more inspiring and contemporary works rather than this decades-old play that demands a lot from its audience and actors with very little pay-off.

Venue: The Courthouse Hotel 86 Errol St, North Melbourne. 

Season: Until 13 May | Tue – Sat 8pm
Tickets: $28 Full | $22 Conc 
Bookings: North of Eight

Image by Arun Munoz Photography

REVIEW: Black Water Productions Presents KILLER JOE

Viciously funny

By Caitlin McGrane

If you are of a sensitive disposition, I advise you to look away now. Killer Joe by Tracy Letts is not for the faint of heart. A tale of depravity, sexual violence, misogyny and poverty, it catapults the audience to 1990s Texas. Those, like myself, more familiar with the 2012 film version starring Matthew McConaughey might be au fait with the subject matter, but it doesn’t stop the stage version being just as shocking, intriguing and downright funny.

Indeed, I was startled once again by how witty the script is; the gloomy staging rarely lets the audience feel quite comfortable in the company of the characters. And this is no bad thing: the audience ought to find them fairly reprehensible.

Killer Joe

‘Killer’ Joe Cooper, brilliantly played by Mark Diaco was equal parts charming and vicious; Michael Argus as Chris Smith both morally repugnant and sweetly caring; Sarah Hallam’s Sharla Smith was funny but almost wholly without sympathy; Ansel Smith played by Michael Robins was a loveable idiot and dangerously moronic. And then Dottie, everyone’s favourite character, indeed often the only character with whom the audience had any sympathy was played with just enough unhinged psychosis by Matilda Reed.

The staging was brilliant: I particularly enjoyed the use of the television (“Don’t you touch that television” might have brought in the biggest laugh of the night). The attention to detail on stage was also admirable and the use of props was interesting and inventive (special mention to the plastic sword); director Daniel Frederiksen has outdone himself. If you don’t mind being shocked and appalled, this production of Killer Joe is certainly worth hunting down.

Killer Joe is now showing at Revolt Artspace in Kensington from now until 23 November. Tickets (and Pozible campaign) at http://www.blackwatertheatre.com/#!bw-presents-killer-joe/c180r.