Thursday, 29 October 2015

Diva - Creative Collaborations (28 October 2015)

Warning: contains strong language, drug and sexual references.

There’s no denying any of that.

There’s also no denying the fact that this is a searing psychological profile with no less than a full-throated performance by Tiffany Barton. She completely inhabits the character of June, a former New York opera singer now stricken at the thought of leaving her apartment. 

Barton is fearless in exploring all the complexities of this larger than life diva; from the grotesque to the outrageous; the flat out funny to the poignant; often with devastating self-reflection. It’s in your face, immediate and compelling. What a joy to witness an actress not only embrace but trumpet all the jagged little edges, contradictions, hopes and fears of a character so thoroughly. June is, in part, based on a real person so this bleeds with authenticity.

The show literally jumps out at you and at first I was taken aback. There’s a certain shock value as we initially meet June but various story strands slowly emerge in this meticulously crafted monologue. Two great love affairs come to the fore – one with June’s husband Manny; the other with the opera and performance itself. The discovery that one largely destroys the other adds to a sense of pathos. But make no mistake; there is a fierce determination here to enjoy all that life has to offer, with every lump and Tosca inspired orgasm!

Underpinning this is June’s relationship with her father who will abandon the young girl and be absent through key moments of her life. Then there’s the reason why June can’t leave her apartment that is potent in its understated recounting. It will resonate with any artist who aspires to greatness.

All these strands are woven together amidst moments of manic energy as June dresses up, sings along to her beloved opera, laments the effect of age on her looks, consumes pills hidden in a teapot, and happily submits to the attention of ‘Mr Buzzy’, a formidable looking vibrator. Tellingly though, it’s the quieter moments that pack the biggest wallop – Barton and director Helen Doig aren’t afraid to let us observe June who becomes increasingly bizarre in appearance. Those moments of stillness and sense of vulnerability are quite special.

There are two clever devices to allow the character to ‘perform’ and share her memories – one, improbably, is a stuffed cat called Eugene, smothered to death by a drunken June; the other, an ingenious puppet of Manny made of cardboard boxes and rollers. Again, having Barton ‘impersonate’ Manny, become the innocent child who misses her Daddy, or admonish her dead cat allows for changes in rhythm and pace that keep this unpredictable and enthralling.

The simple telephone injects a note of dread as a symbol of the outside world (and the past) that June seemingly craves to reconnect with but is paralysed at the very thought of. Indeed, audio cues are an important component from the strains of opera to amusingly salacious lyrics to prompts to snap June in and out of moments of self-reflection.

This is a well written, well directed and beautifully crafted piece of theatre with a memorable performance that sponsored a most interesting discussion afterwards in the lobby. Highly recommended.

Diva was written by and stars Tiffany Barton and is directed by Helen Doig with puppets, set and costumes created by Cherie Hewson and sound by Max Porotto. Perfectly suited to the intimate black box theatre upstairs at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle, it runs until 1 November as part of the Fremantle Festival.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Stray Cats Theatre Company & Mandurah Performing Arts Centre (17 October 2015)

It’s a familiar scene - parents and children milling around performers fresh from their final bows asking for autographs and posing for photos. Not only the stars mind you but members of the ensemble are there as well to greet family, friends and audience members. It’s an impressive sight. The children all excited as they clutch the programme with a whole back page devoted for autographs. The cast are still in costume and makeup, no doubt amped with adrenaline immediately after the matinee performance. There’s a real buzz in the air.

Stray Cats Theatre Company and the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre sure know how to put on a crowd pleasing, family friendly spectacle. This is the third in what I’ll refer to as Stray Cats’ Classic English Family Musical Trilogy that commenced with last year’s Oliver!, continued with Mary Poppins earlier this year and ended with a punctuation mark as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang took flight.

If one of the roles of community theatre is to engage with and entertain its local residents then these productions are among the finest examples we have in the state. Usually a run will only be four to five shows over one weekend but they are always well attended and sit comfortably in the spacious Performing Arts Centre. The local community support is excellent and the venue is a jewel only an hour south of Perth. That support is rewarded with outstanding entertainment.

As I was sitting upstairs in the front row of the dress circle looking down on the opening scene it struck me that these shows are the only time I see upwards of 60 performers on stage. It simply doesn’t happen anywhere else. Laudable is how many are young children. Even more remarkable is the attention to detail for the costuming of every single person on stage from the youngest to the oldest. There’s no scrimping here. They all have a role and they all look the part.

Director Karen Francis always dares to be ambitious in the scale of her productions; from the large casts to the impressive sets and lighting design to the choice of musical itself. Visually they are a feast. This was full of wonderfully colourful backdrops and the transition between scenes was slick as set components were dropped in behind a temporarily lowered screen as the orchestra played on. The centrepiece though was the car itself. Beautifully recreated and functional it drew appropriate applause when it lifted, tilted and ‘sprouted wings’ with the Potts family and Truly on-board. 

An occasional criticism I have had in the past is that the orchestras for these productions can be variable in quality. Any fear of this was quickly dispelled in the Overture. Under the baton of assistant musical director Vanitha Hart they played very well; the best musical accompaniment since 2012’s Hairspray for mine.

To the performances and a few of the headliners from Mary Poppins featured again. Jon Lambert played Caractacus Potts, another father with two precocious children and, dare I say it, using the exact same accent as his Mister Banks. This was only a minor complaint, quickly forgotten, as he gives yet another charming performance. Lambert’s solo number Hushabye Mountain was his standout vocal moment and a highlight of the show.

Kristie Gray’s run of memorable characters continues moving from Mary Poppins to Truly Scrumptious with aplomb. Gray has a beautiful singing voice with excellent clarity and power; the featured solo Lovely, Lonely Man a highpoint as was her Doll On A Music Box. In terms of singing ability she was closely followed by Kim Moore as Baroness Bomburst who featured in flamboyant number The Bombie Samba and worked well with Joshua Towns (as the Baron) in Chu-Chi Face.

Further Mary Poppins alums, Daniel Nixon and Nicholas Gaynor, provided great humour as the bumbling Vulgarian spies tasked to acquire the flying car. Scott Hansen added some vaudeville style menace as the Child Catcher while Rory Ellis was solid as the Toy Maker. Then there were the Potts children played with great flair by Sebastian Cruse and Marissa Pereira.

There was plenty of colour and movement epitomised by another highlight - Me Ol’ Bamboo - and the aforementioned The Bombie Samba. In many ways it’s a silly story with plenty of farce but darker moments as well as we discover the children banished to the sewers. It all has a happy ending with the audience clapping along to the title number as the family fly safely home.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is fabulous family entertainment and I felt quite invigorated as I left the venue. It comes as no surprise to me then that Francis has acquired the amateur rights to the blockbuster Wicked, the definition of a big, crowd pleasing musical. Given her track record it will be fascinating to see how she tackles the technical requirements to make that show literally fly as well. On the evidence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it will be something to see!

Originally written by Ian Fleming with the script adapted by Ray Roderick from the MGM Motion Picture of the same name; Music by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman; Directed by Karen Francis with Choreography by Ashleigh Riley and Megan Doohan, Musical Direction by David Hicks and Vocal Direction by Kristie Gray; and starring Jon Lambert, Kristie Gray, Sebastian Cruse, Marissa Pereira, Peter Sydney-Smith, Nicholas Gaynor, Daniel R Nixon, Kim Moore and Joshua Towns.  

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

13 - WAAPA (12 October 2015)

I think it’s fair to say that this play is hard work for an audience. It is thematically dense and structurally challenging throwing a lot of characters at you early in short, sharp vignettes before it finally settles into more traditional storytelling. It’s also fair to say, however, that there are many fine performances by this second year class.

A whole lot of story strands are thrown in the air during a frenetic start – an English Prime Minister being pressured to join America in a war against Iran; various protestors against student fees; the mysterious John who returns from some sort of self-imposed exile who slowly becomes a rallying cry for dissent; an American diplomatic family in London; a cocky lawyer and his assistant; and so on. All have recurring nightmares about monsters and destruction; all seem to be looking for purpose and possibly salvation.

Interconnections slowly come to the fore culminating in the quasi-Christlike figure of John confronting the English Prime Minister at Number 10 while his followers rally outside. He tries to dissuade her from committing forces to Iran; she upholds traditional conservative values in the name of compromise and complexity.

Overlayed on all this is a clear thematic debate over belief and the existence of God. There is an academic who doesn’t believe in God who is a close friend, perhaps the only friend, of the PM. The precocious 11 year old daughter of the diplomatic family reads voraciously and doesn’t have time for fun because there is evil in the world. Her mother, a god fearing woman is appalled at her daughter’s casual dismissal of God. John is a surrogate Christ figure as he preaches on an upturned bucket in the park. He gathers many followers as his thoughts and words are transmitted over social media, filmed by a woman who has sex with men for money. One of which is the lawyer whose carefree attitude to his job and life comes crashing down around him. And so it goes.

There is almost too much thematic intent to hang on an already convoluted structure. The whole thing occasionally sways precariously, almost ready to topple. It also felt overlong as the confrontation between the PM and John, aided by the academic, felt more debate than drama. However, a clear action change for the PM gives the whole endeavour a second wind and it closes strongly. Though, I have to say, the thematic conclusion is ambivalent as John’s fate is executed with clinical precision tied to a horrendous act his beliefs are claimed to have sponsored.

To the performances and Miranda Aitken is excellent as the Prime Minister (Ruth) especially in the second half where her character assumes greater prominence. Playing a much older character it was the stiff bearing, the stillness, and especially the measured vocal tones that really sold this. While giving Ruth an authoritative air, hints of vulnerability and regret seeped through to telling affect. The weight of Ruth’s final decision was writ large on Aitken’s face in the closing moments. It was also her action change from passive listener to passionate defender of Ruth’s beliefs that gave the play its second wind just when things were flagging.

Will McNeill was compelling in another performance that snuck up on me. Initially playing the lawyer (Mark) with “don’t give a fuck” insouciance, his character slowly unravelled until experiencing a full-blown breakdown that was beautifully played. That it had me empathising with a previously unlikeable character was impressive.

If Aitken had a challenge playing a woman decades older then Kate Betcher had a similar task with 11 year old Ruby. She was suitably precocious and annoying but with the brutal honesty of a child. It was a clever portrayal and she worked well with the mother (Sarah) played by Anna Apps who has her own emotional arc that was perhaps the most difficult and controversial of the play. The insistence that what she ultimately does was justified is devastating and haunting.

Lukas Radovich gives John a mysterious air until he springs into action and embraces the role as de facto leader of the opposition forces that swirl around the PM. It’s a level-headed performance in a difficult role that is full of symbolism. Giuseppe Rotondella makes for a passionate Amir; Lachlan Ruffy a somewhat pretentious academic. Sophia Forrest inhabits the oddly conflicted Holly who, in many ways, facilitates John’s ascension and Mark’s downfall.

There were so many good performances here – Elle Mickel continues to impress with her gift at the comic gesture or quirky delivery that really hits the mark; Megan Smart carries a lot of the early action with a committed Rachel; George Pullar is a likeable diplomat who loves his daughter, is concerned for the PM, and has to deal with the most heinous of betrayals.

In a play dealing with lots of weighty topics and big ideas Brittany Santariga introduces an instantly recognisable human touch as her Zia looks for love in unexpected places with all the nervousness and anticipation anyone can identify with. There are some quite sweet moments between Santariga and Emma O’Sullivan as Zia’s prospective new girlfriend.

Directed with flair by Michael McCall in an interesting space over two levels that allowed for various entry and exit points for the actors, this had lots of energy until getting a little bogged down in dialogue heavy debate in the latter stages. The use of a transparent, movable screen to depict the nightmares of various characters was stylistically very effective as was the lighting and sound design. 

13 was written by Mike Bartlett, Directed by Michael McCall and stars the second year acting class of Lukas Radovich, Megan Smart, Giuseppe Rotondella, Sophia Forrest, Sarah Greenwood, Miranda Aitken, Lachlan Ruffy, Elle Mickel, Kate Betcher, George Pullar, Alexander Daley, Brittany Santariga, Angus McLaren, Emma O’Sullivan, Will McNeill, Anna Apps, Rory O’Keefe, Joel Davies, and Kieran Clancy-Lowe and is on at the Tricycle Theatre at Mount Lawley Senior High School until 15 October. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

And The World Goes 'Round - WAAPA (10 October 2015)

This is one of my favourite times of the year on the local theatrical scene. We've seen glimpses of what will be next year's graduating musical theatre class but now we get the full package, front and centre. The singing potential hinted at in the play Hiawatha; the triple threat skills used in support of the third years in Legally Blonde; all come together in this musical revue.

And what a revue to choose - the timeless songs of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Thirty five of them in fact. Such wit and intelligence in the lyrics, such polish and pizzaz in the music. It's nothing short of a treat for musical theatre lovers.

What I really appreciated is that the second year class had the opportunity to shine in so many facets. Yes, the singing ability is undeniable which is to be expected. The choreography by Australian musical theatre legend Nancye Hayes (who also directs here) was slick and, at times, sassy, funny, and downright sexy. The cast looked fantastic, predominantly dressed in black. There was a lot of accent work and admirable use of stagecraft and acting skills. Above all though was a sense of chemistry within the group - they worked well together and were enjoying the opportunity to perform such world class material.

The venue was perfect for this style of show - seating was along two sides only and we were nice and close to the action. The four piece orchestra under musical director Derek Bond was tucked away in one corner leaving plenty of stage space which was set out slightly staggered over three levels. There was an appropriate piano keyboard motif painted on the wall and floor.

Before I get to some highlights, there was a real buzz about this production. This was enhanced by the presence of several family members in the audience. I was talking to the uncle of one of the performers as we lined up outside; the mother of another who had travelled from interstate to see her daughter; and ended up sitting next to yet another mother who had come all the way from Queensland to see her son. The anticipation and pride they share is a delightful bonus.

I must mention the work of the orchestra, a feature of which was Derek Bond's excellent piano playing, but also included fine work by Austin Salisbury on Keyboard, Oliver Rundin on Drums and Jonathan Chen on Bass.

This is definitely a recommended show - it is utterly entertaining and very funny in parts and a wonderful showcase for this group. You might have trouble getting a ticket though even with an extra show added due to the demand.

It features the second year musical theatre class of:

Ashley Roussety, Christina Odam, Jason Arrow, Jens Radda, Joshua Firman, Kate Schmidli, Melissa Russo, Mikey Halcrow, Rebecca Cullinan, Stephanie Wall, Andre Drysdale, Marissa Economo, Stefanie Caccamo, Hannah Burridge, Matthew Manahan, Nathan Stark, Samuel Welsh, and Embla Bishop.

Some highlights for me:

The witty Coffee in a Cardboard Cup enhanced by some funny choreography featuring, you guessed it, cardboard cups (Wall, Baum, Manahan, Stark, Cullinan, Bishop).

A beautifully sung version of Coloured Lights by Stefanie Caccamo with appropriately good lighting design.

The delightfully cheesy ode to Sara Lee that hammed things up gloriously (to mix my food metaphors) again with cheeky choreography (Baum, Arrow, Welsh, Odam, Bishop, Russo).

Sam Welsh enjoying the attention of Misses Economo, Burridge and Schmidli with Arthur in the Afternoon.

The entire Chicago sequence but especially Nathan Stark's poignant Mr Cellophane and Messrs. Arrow and Welsh having a grand old time with an unexpected version of Class.

The first act closer City Lights featuring Mikey Halcrow and the whole ensemble that hints at what is to come next year when the entire group is on stage together.

The charming tale Ring Them Bells (Economo, Burridge, Russo, Caccamo, Roussety, Firman, Welsh, Manahan).

The hilarious Pain that sees Burridge, Caccamo, Odam, and Halcrow suffer under the tutelage of a wonderfully overbearing Drysdale.

Stephanie Wall's Maybe This Time from Cabaret.

The lads in coordinated attack with briefcases in hand during Money, Money.

And finally, the multi-lingual closer New York, New York featuring Bishop, Drysdale, Caccamo, Radda and Odam before the ensemble joins in to clinch the deal with a rousing finale that drew appreciative applause for a wonderful show.

There were so many other highlights so if you don't already have a ticket see if you can beg, borrow or steal one!

Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, Directed by Nancye Hayes, with Musical Direction by Derek Bond, And The World Goes 'Round is on at the Enright Studio until 17 October.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Macbeth - WAAPA (9 October 2015)

WAAPA prides itself on housing many disciplines under the one roof at the ECU, Mount Lawley campus. Not only performance - acting, musical theatre, dance, contemporary & classical music - but all the other disciplines that are required to stage a production, from lighting and sound design, to costuming, set design, and arts management. This totality of approach makes the Academy unique and was certainly on display with this modern interpretation of Macbeth.

As I walked up the long corridor to the Roundhouse Theatre I could hear the portentous rumbling of modern music which was the first sign of the multi-media accompaniment we were about to experience. As the line of patrons waited to file in, the director Andrew Lewis pointed out signs asking that the name Macbeth not be uttered inside. This is a long held tradition given the play’s reputation of being ‘cursed’.

Once inside, the freshly painted stage was bare. There was a spiral staircase up to the second level where three screens were situated; one centrally, the other two on each side. Apart from occasions where a table might be wheeled on there was little set to speak of. This is where the light and sound design came to the fore and the use of those screens in various ways. They crackled into life depicting key elements - the roiling witches' cauldron or Seyton's initial appearance for example; or indicate the setting - Birnam Wood; but most noticeably were utilised to project live video of crucial soliloquies as they were being delivered on stage. 

Filmed from the upper level with at least two cameras given the juxtaposition of images, the harsh video look worked perfectly to heighten the emotion on the actor's face in close up - usually Benjamin Kindon as Macbeth but also Shalom Brune-Franklin as Lady Macbeth. The screens flickered and crackled in time to the modern, rhythmic music that was an ominous score. The lighting design was excellent with lots of diffused light through smoke and the highlighting of actors again in key moments but great use of shadow as well. 

Lewis had chosen to set this Macbeth "in a corporate world inhabited by knife-wielding, suited professionals". That suited look worked well with 'armour' being replaced by police style flak jackets. Brune-Franklin looked stunning in several gowns while the other female characters were sleek in their corporate attire; the men resplendent in suit and tie. Instead of swords and daggers we had knives and some vigorous confrontations, notably in the final fight between Macbeth and Macduff (Hoa Xuande).

All these elements gave the production great atmosphere and allowed for seamless scene transitions - this fairly hummed along. Having said that there were times, especially involving the witches, where there was a languid, at times hypnotic pace within a scene that was mesmerising.

This considered and skilled approach allowed the actors to shine in the space that had been so meticulously crafted. First and foremost, Kindon was excellent as Macbeth - a strong physical presence, he also conveyed the range of emotion from the almost boyish delight on hearing the witches' initial pronouncements to doubt and rage, the full force of hubris, and the slow descent into madness. His blind conviction of his invincibility was writ large as he mocked Macduff at the end only to be undone by such misplaced faith. His terror at Banquo's appearance was well portrayed and he handled the famous soliloquies well - the softly delivered Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow the best of them.

Brune-Franklin was at her best in the aftermath of Lady Macbeth's terrible cajoling of Macbeth to commit murder and seize the crown. The portrayal of guilt as she prowls the castle, sleepwalking at night ending in the famous Out, Damned Spot was strong. Those two characters' intersecting emotional through lines is always fascinating. From the stronger of the two at the start Lady Macbeth crumbles into irreversible guilt and finally suicide. 

Lincoln Vickery was a most affable Duncan and later the more earnest Scottish Doctor who witnesses Lady Macbeth's malady and overhears her seeming confession. Dacre Montgomery provided a strong counterpoint to Kindon in the early going as Banquo and his return as the blood spattered ghost that rebukes Macbeth is powerful.

Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Stephanie Panozzo and Brittany Morel comprised a set of tantalising witches adding a highly stylised approach to proceedings. They also doubled as various servants and messengers. They were joined by Elle Harris as Seyton. Harris has a chameleon like quality that can see her playing a young boy (Fleance here and Tom Joad last year in Grapes of Wrath) with as equal credibility as the vamped up Seyton. 

The other standout though was Jessica Paterson as Malcolm. WAAPA often likes to switch up their casting with gender reversals and here Paterson was more than equal to the task giving Malcolm an impressive strength and charismatic stage presence. Unfortunately, Xuande's Macduff wasn't up to the same calibre, the Shakespearean dialogue coming across as quite flat in his delivery. 

Then there was the famous Porter scene that immediately follows Duncan's death. A radical shift in tone to provide some comic relief to the relentless darkness and allow our co-conspirators time to change. Megan Wilding nails the moment and owns the stage with a full-throated approach that had the audience laughing and squirming in equal measure. 

Another highlight was the tension built up in the scene where Lady Macduff (Rebecca Gulia) cradling her baby and talking to her son (Gordon-Anderson), is assailed by Bevan Pfeiffer's and Rian Howlett's assassins. Pfeiffer's sudden appearance out of the shadows at the back of stage had the person sitting next to me pointing in warning. The resultant actions were brutal and devastating.

I walked back down that long corridor reminding myself "this is one hell of a play" and that is testament to all those elements that WAAPA brings to the table. 

Macbeth is on at the Roundhouse Theatre until 15 October. Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Andrew Lewis, Set Designer Ashliegh Hodges, Costume Designer Dolly-Mere Nettleton, Lighting Designer Chloe Ogilvie and Sound Designer Alice Carroll.

It stars the 3rd year graduating class of Benjamin Kindon, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Dacre Montgomery, Lincoln Vickery, Jessica Paterson, Bevan Pfeiffer, Hoa Xuande, Rebecca Gulia, Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Luke Fewster, Claudia Ware, Seamus Quinn, Elle Harris, Brittany Morel, Stephanie Panozzo, Megan Wilding and Rian Howlett. 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

80 Minutes No Interval - Hayman Theatre Company (7 October 2015)

This review has been written by a meticulously constructed algorithm that was inserted into a small, innocuous looking black box. That box was gathered together with other small, black boxes and placed in a front row seat with an excellent view of the stage. The previous owner of this blog, an intermittent writer and more than occasional theatre reviewer, is now trapped in an existential flower store listening to the music of Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia whilst pondering the significance of the Mamet play Oleanna and the ideal garnish for an evening meal.

Yes, there are several levels of absurdity in writer Travis Cotton's play - a comedy about a failed novelist turned theatre reviewer who simply wants to marry Claire but is thwarted by a professional waiter, his own calamitous culinary curiosity, and the existence of the future of criticism, the aforementioned black box. It does not end well for our hero, Louis, who goes to jail for murder only to contemplate an ill-conceived dalliance in more ways than one on his release.

There is no doubt the play is funny and there are several weird and wonderful characters along the way with plenty of jabs at theatre cliches and a healthy dose of self-awareness. Yet when all is said and done I wasn't quite sure what it all signified after the laughter faded. There are constant references to David Mamet's Oleanna and I was looking for thematic connections that simply didn't appear to be there.

Ultimately the play feels more like the film Adaptation where Donald Kaufman's screenplay takes pre-eminence in the last third skewering the absurdity of the type of Hollywood film Charlie Kaufman would rail against. Yet, apart from a funny button that ends the play, I kept waiting for the grander point or idea. It never came. The mocking of cliches seemed to be the point and that felt a little hollow.

The lead character Louis, played with straight man charm by Kane Parker, bounces from one increasingly absurd situation to the next but to no great end. The opening scene where the Gallic accented waiter (Jeremy Bunny) pleads with him not to propose to Claire (Lauren Beeton) is amusing enough and sets Louis on his way. He wants to prove he can support Claire and finally get one of his manuscripts published. Some of the failed writer turned theatre reviewer observations were nicely acerbic and had me squirming!

The publisher, played with malevolent glee by Tristan McInnes, demands Louis sign on the dotted line but all ends in mock tragedy and our hero is carted off to the big house for twenty years. The jail dance sequence set to Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head is a sight to see - itself seemingly a gag about "interpretive dance".

The final scene at the florist's has its own machinations, again mocking some well worn story devices that litter both film and theatre. It is well set up and paid off but again, not devastating enough a note for mine to end the play on.

Before the show started, Eleanor Davidson was playing the flute, stage right - an eclectic mix that included Summertime and Fly Me To The Moon. That she enters the action as Louis' boss is one of the devices Claire mentions in a long rant about theatre cliches. The introduction of the black box that replaces Louis spins us off into strange territory indeed but that was only the beginning of the weirdness.

Bunny has all kinds of fun as the waiter with an outrageous accent who constantly challenges Louis. Beeton plays Claire with a no nonsense practicality that would scare the hello out of any writer and Caitlin McFeat makes for an earnest florist as Mathilde.

It's the first time I've seen a revolve used at the Hayman Upstairs and there was a touch of Noises Off as we see actors cum stagehands rotate the set with a wink and nod at the audience.

It is entertaining and you will certainly laugh but it felt like it needed another layer to really elevate the material to more than a series of loosely connected, funny scenes.

Written by Travis Cotton, Directed by Philip Miolin and starring Kane Parker, Jeremy Bunny, Lauren Beeton, Eleanor Davidson, Kayla MacGillivray, Alex Gerrans, Tristan McInnes, Kharla Fannon, Ashleigh Ryan and Caitlin McFeat, 80 Minutes No Interval is exactly that and is on at the Hayman Theatre Upstairs until 10 October.