It’s true, you could be stranded in the middle of nowhere and the topic of conversation would invariably come back to Sydney real estate prices. Eddie Perfect; actor, writer, playschool host, cabaret great and festival co-director has written and stars in a play that despite its genesis in Melbourne is so very Sydney.
Rob and Sue move to the country for a new start after the stress of a life threatening fishing trip affects Rob’s senses and work abilities. The good life of fresh air, home grown vegetables, organic and sustainable living close to friends is just what he and his family need. His friends are also affluent city folk who have moved to the country, none of the characters in this ensemble piece are particularly likable as they display all of the hang-ups and fashionable followings of the trendsetters of the day.
The group decides to have a nose-to-tail dinner party and aim to out master-chef each other with each course of delectable beef and matching fine wines. Choosing their own calf the evening starts with the “meat-smith” butcher not arriving and things take a hands-on turn for all. In this River Cottage Australia meets Seinfeld comedy nobody is left unscathed.
Dinner party disasters are great fodder and in The Beast there are many brilliantly funny moments that make us question who we are, and more importantly, who we aspire to be. The main event is the dinner party in which both the sacrificing of the calf, which is cleverly realised, and the ensuing gourmet dining experience provides the meat of the story. There is no doubt that this play tackles many taboos and provokes thought in a way that only comedy can do.
The performances are solid and there are some stand out moments for each character. Toby Truslove is delightful as Rob, bringing a politically correct lightness needed to the ensemble; his balcony scene with Christie Whelan Browne, playing fragile Gen, is a highlight of the evening. Gens wife Simon, well played by Rohan Nichol is completely vile and even elicited gasps from the opening night audience. Alison Bell is droll and sexy as down to earth Marg and Eddie Perfect is very comfortable as her partner Baird. Seasoned director Simon Phillips is at the helm and steers a steady ship despite some performances verging on the overly presentational.
Set and costume design by Dale Ferguson is simple and effective, a special mention has to go to the “Beast” brown calf that is a feature of the first half. Composer Alan John provides the kooky and zany backdrop to this couples night out.
There is no doubt that this play tackles many taboos and provokes thought in a way that only comedy can do. It isn’t a subtle style and does not delve into the heart of what makes us so desperate to keep up with the Joneses in the first place, which would have been a more interesting exploration for the audience to take away. But this delicious comedy has a spoonful of country air and large dollops of cringe that are sure to please. If you know your kales from your quinoas then this is the ticket for you.
Fiona Hallenan-Barker : Talking Arts
Fiona is a director, programmer, producer, dramaturg and general theatre advocate. A graduate of both Theatre Nepean and VCA Directing she has worked in artistic programming at Sydney Opera House and Merrigong Theatre Company
27 July – 21 August 2016