Thore HouseThe creation of expat Swedish actress Danijela Hodges, Thore House is set in an erotic nightclub and tells the interwoven stories of several of its denizens. The plot does not bear much description, but characters such as the predictably slimy club owner, his vain reality-star girlfriend, other dancers, a Russian barman, squabbling married patrons and an aging single-mother stripper with a daughter preparing to follow in her footsteps all get a look-in.

As writer, director, co-choreographer and presumably producer as well, Hodges’ play was (as outlined in her director’s note) conceived of as an attempt to create work rather than merely being endlessly at the mercy of “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. In this respect I applaud Hodges and her collaborators for their initiative and great enthusiasm, even though I can’t actually endorse the resulting product.

It would seem that a downside of such totally independent production is the potential for poor quality control, as I can’t imagine any dramaturge worth their salt failing to recommend many more revisions of Thore House be made before going into production. Amateurish in the extreme, this simplistic script makes easy targets of its pathetic male characters whilst making the most tepid feminist statement imaginable with the eventual triumphs of its notionally empowered women. Its leaden plot twists are best left unexplained. In the absence of any noteworthy burlesque sequences (much less any actual striptease), the show did not even have the draw card of being mildly titillating. Beyond being merely boring, this play was practically embarrassing to watch.

Situated on the third floor of a walk-up gym, one gets the distinct impression that this makeshift theatre has been set up in someone’s private apartment or studio. The atrociously uncomfortable stools that stood in for seating were hardly inviting, and had the show had an interval I’d be surprised if the entire audience would have returned for the second act.

To fall short of wholly lambasting Thore House, the production did have some redeeming features. David Richards as Thore and Marc Cuffe as Karl were amusing in their respective two-dimensional roles, as was Georgie Sutton as the hapless Tanya. The choreography of the dancing was competent, and the main three dancers Kristine Dee, Jasmine Cox and Chi Chi Huang were each skilled. Hodges herself played two roles, and Sarah Hincks played the single mother Vanessa.

Tori Hartigan, however, was quite good as gaolbait Hannah, turning in a better performance here than in her recent stint as Abigail Williams in New Theatre’s production of The Crucible, despite the incomparably inferior material. The highest points of the show were all thanks to Beer the bartender, the one well-drawn character played with deft comic timing and a believable thick Russian accent by Peter Cook, who was by far the best actor in the play.

Ironically, the advertising and programme for Thore House informs us that the play has a money-back guarantee, stating that “Danijela is so sure of the quality of this play that she offers [a] full money back guarantee if you don’t laugh once.”

Famous last words. Although I may have fallen short of that criteria on a technicality, I was sorely tempted regardless.

Although it is very important that we support independent local theatre, there are times when its quality is so substandard that one cannot conscionably recommend it. This is one of them.

BAZE Productions presents
Thore House
By Danijela Hodges

Venue: Baze Theatre: 34 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills
Dates: April 26 | 27 | 28 & May 3 | 4 | 5 | 8 | 9 | 13 | 17| 18 | 19 | 24 | 25 | 26
Times: Thurs, Fri, Sat @ 8.00 pm; Sun @ 5.00 pm
Tickets: Adult: $30 Conc/Group $25
Bookings/Info: 0431 119 538

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