Thursday, 16 February 2006

The Cheapest Hotel in Victoria, Feb 16, 2006

The Cheapest Hotel in Victoria 
by Kieran Carroll
 La Mama, Feb 16 to March 5, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 16, 2006

In The Cheapest Hotel in Victoria, three blokes spend a stingy holiday at the Fed Up and Had It Hotel in a mythical town in Victoria. It is a disaster for all sorts of reasons –like all their summer holidays for the last 18 years.

Kieran Carroll’s central idea is quirky and has potential to be a good comedy. The writing, although not as skilful, is reminiscent of Barry Dickins’ plays, incorporating Australianisms, anachronisms, nostalgia grumpy geezers, beer and grubby claustrophobic rooms.

There is plenty of effort from the actors but the performances are uneven, often strained and sometimes out of control. The direction (Carroll & Matthew Charleston) is awkward and lacks a clear vision to make the comedy and characters consistent and alive.

Jamie Robertson has some broad, comic moments as Des, a womanising beer-swilling oaf with an inflated view of his own magnetism.

Luke Doxy plays his absurdly conservative, nostalgic and repressed mate, Ray, who although he is only 27, pines for the heyday of past Liberal Party heroes, for tomato and cheese on Savoy crackers and Reader’s Digest.

Mal, played by Charleston, is the stitched-up, miserly holiday master. Every year, he chooses the cheapest hotel, the crumbiest room and rations the lads’ food, beer and fun. The only fun he allows them is the occasional dancing to the distant strains of Cold Chisel on the jukebox.

The three share a seedy, old, double bed mattress throughout the play. It is an absurd notion that would work better with stronger direction.

The production feels undercooked and uncomfortable, the writing sometimes overly adorned and the performers unsure of the style.

Charleston uses an unfortunate, mouth-twisting characterisation that makes much of his dialogue incomprehensible. Doxy’s understated delivery is a good choice and Robertson has some broadly comical moments playing Des’s roguishness and machismo.

The fourth character, Mr. Barnstormer, (Nial Carroll) is like something from a Ionesco absurdist play, but Carroll’s timing and delivery are awkward.

The final appearance of the publican, dressed as a World Championship wrestler could be funny, but Domenic Phelan overplays the role by shouting.

The political and social references in Carroll’s script certainly have comic potential but this production needs some tightening.

By Kate Herbert

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