Eddie Perfect’s 'The Beast' blasts Sydney away
Perfect’s play is a fantastic new Australian work, which satirizes the trends, and moralizations of middle-class Australia. The Beast is referred to as a black comedy and does have some incredibly dark moments. A traumatic event at sea causes three men to vow to change their lives completely: to live a more organic and sustainable life. When the men and their families decide to have a sustainable dinner,it is decided an organic cow will be purchased and humanely slaughtered. When the butcher does not show up, these characters are left with the dilemma of what to do with The Beast.
Simon Phillips’ touring production of Eddie Perfect’s first play creates hilarious performances from some of Australia’s leading actors. The audience seemed to be divided over some of the more controversial lines: responding with either silence or an uncomfortable laugh. Perhaps some parts of this play cut too close to the bone.
The performances are superb all around. Each actor has their own moment in the spotlight where they cause hilarious side-splitting laughter. Alison Bell is a standout who, more than the other actors, grounds her character, Marge, in naturalism. Her character is far less presentational in performance style than many of the other actors leading to the black comedy to be far more subtle and caustic. Another standout is Toby Truslove as Rob. After suffering a break down at his job, Rob and his wife Sue (a wonderful Heidi Arena) move to the country. Truslove uses incredible physicalization to convey his character. Perhaps the best example of this is much of Truslove’s smoking shtick, where he attempts to hide the fact that he smokes from his wife Sue, in the Second Act, which had the audience in hysterical peals of laughter.
Simon Phillips is more restrained in his showmanship than usual. This may be due to the fact this production is going on tour and playing in a variety of theatres. The sets and lights are therefore effective but not as complex as other signature Phillips productions.
Phillips does add some wonderful touches, however. Having the actors push around Dale Ferguson’s set pieces does show that these characters lives are forever in flux as they try and find their feet after moving from the inner-city to the countryside. One of the issues, however, with the production was the sound quality of the microphones, which often sounded tinny and quiet from the back of the Drama Theatre. Some of the lines were difficult to understand and an increase in volume would help dramatically.
The Beast originally debuted at Melbourne Theatre Company in 2013 and it is a shame that it has taken so long to reach the rest of Australia. Luckily, Simon Phillips and this phenomenal cast of Australian actors has brought Perfect’s hilarious black comedy to Sydney with great style. I think this one of the best contemporary Australian productions and, by the reception it received at its curtain call, shows that there is a demand for new Australian writing.
The Beast will play the Sydney Opera House from 27th July to 21st August. It will then play in Melbourne and Brisbane. Tickets available from Ticketek.