Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Monday, 29 August 2016
The Beast, Aug 26, 2016 ***
By Eddie Perfect, produced by
Ambassador Theatre Group Asia Pacific & Red Live\ Comedy
Theatre, until Sept 4, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 25 Stars: ***
Review also in Herald Sun online on Mon Aug 29, 2016 & later in print. KH
(L-R) Alison Bell and Eddie Perfect - pic Ken Nakanishi
In Eddie Perfect’s play, The Beast, the humans are far
more beastly than the hapless, bovine
creature that they choose to slaughter and eat for their swanky, nose-to-tail
by Simon Phillips, The Beast is a deeply flawed play that
transgresses key dramatic and theatrical rules but, despite all of its faults,
it is strangely entertaining and oddly transfixing in a ‘just-can’t-look-away’
relies on outrageous hilarity and shock value to divert the middle-class
viewers who see themselves reflected on stage in three couples comprising six
self-indulgent, pretentious characters who purport to be friends but evidently
loathe each other.
After Simon (Rohan Nichol),
Baird (Perfect) and Rob (Toby
Truslove) survive a doomed fishing trip, these three indoorsy, Melbourne blokes
make a ‘tree-change’, moving their wives and kids to what sounds like the Yarra
Valley where they plan to live a sustainable, ethical and authentic lifestyle.
For these middle-class miscreants, ‘authentic’ means
luxury homes, local produce and, on this night, inviting a local butcher to
humanely slaughter an ethically reared calf that they will consume accompanied
by posh wines.
brutal social satire relies on audacious grotesquery, absurd action and
outrageous, politically incorrect views too numerous and awful to mention.
script has a clumsy structure, unclear narrative through-line and no dramatic
arc, while his dislikeable characters elicit only occasional sympathy and the
relentlessly repetitive dialogue screams for savage editing to reduce the
overly long show by 30 minutes.
clownish histrionics, wide-mouthed shouting, overstated dialogue, overacting
and ridiculous, Grand-Guignol gushes of theatrical blood are funny, but all
this absurdity wears thin when there is no pay-off in the narrative.
resembles an American sit-com reminiscent of the final Seinfeld episode where
the characters received their comeuppance but, although we want Perfect’s
characters to suffer as their victims suffered, they escape punishment for
their selfish, cruel acts.
plays Baird with the soft, cow-eyed confusion of the calf that they slaughter
but this hides his more dangerous side, while Alison Bell as Baird’s boozy,
cynical wife, Marge, provides a welcome still point and a cynical eye on her
self-important dinner companions.
Simon is such a vile, cruel and morally corrupt individual that it is
surprising that no audience member hurls a smart-phone at him, while Christie
Whelan Browne, as his depressed and oppressed wife, Gen, shifts from raging to
catatonic in every scene.
gets plenty of laughs as the medicated, slightly demented Rob, although he
plays him like an annoying 12-year old, while Heidi Arena portrays his wife,
Sue, as a blousy, slightly hysterical and insecure food snob, and Peter
Houghton cleverly plays multiple roles.
Secrets are revealed, marriages compromised and
friendships questioned, but The Beast may leave you outraged and gaping at the
atrocities, offences and moral murkiness
of these characters.