After a year’s sabbatical, Deckchair is back with a vengeance – launching their 2009 season with a short series of performances at the Port Cinema in Fremantle before they move back into their old home at the Victoria Hall. Deckchair’s Gala Night of Nights, hosted by Damon Lockwood and Sam Longley, was a special fundraiser and celebratory event where some of Perth's most recognisable performers gathered together for one night. The line-up included Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Alinta Carroll, Reg Cribb, Jimmy James Eaton, Alan Girod, Brendan Hansen, Ingle Knight, Greg McNeill, Helen Searle, and Cathie Travers.
It was a rather eclectic programme with generous lashings of in-jokes amongst the who’s who of the Perth theatre scene, on stage and in the audience. Well-known Perth actress Alison Van Reekan may have wished she stayed home in her ugg boots with a glass of wine – the poor thing was dragged up on stage by the almost seven foot Sam Longley in red long-johns and crooned at by the aptly named ‘Crack-a-bar-up Aussie Bush Band’.
Much of the humour was derived from the fact that the entire event was under-rehearsed and under-organised. Comments such as I haven’t actually sung this in 9 years… I’m filling in for so-and-so, please bear with me…How the hell does this [microphone stand] work? were both funny and irksome considering we were there to celebrate the return of a professional theatre company.
There were some lovely moments – the aforementioned Sam Longley in lurid long-johns for one – and some stand-out performances. Ben Russell’s stand-up comedy routine was well received and provided him and Longley with ample material for some off-the-cuff height jokes. His Christopher Walkin impersonation was equally impressive and amusing. Perth-based composer and performer Cathie Travers on the piano accordion was mesmerising, and the highlight of the evening for me. Travers also accompanied Caitlin Beresford-Ord in a unique and entertaining version of Radiohead’s Creep.
Another ‘special moment’ was the debut (assumedly) of the bare behind of playwright and actor Reg Cribb accompanied by Greg McNeill. In bum-less jeans and cowboy hats, Cribb and McNeill, aka Lester and Lester of the ‘Brokeback Mountain Boys’, did a highly amusing rendition of Afternoon Delight and then ‘treated’ the audience to a rather revealing backwards bow. Cribb certainly proved he was multi-talented as he later performed a great rendition of Mad World. What can’t the man do?
It was the ‘Crack-a-bar-up Aussie Bush Band’ that ended the evening’s proceedings with their over-the-top ockerisms and special brand of redneck country music. Endearing as they were (calling Deckchair the ‘Tabletop Theatre Company’, and throwing in some Big Hoo Haa sort of improvising), from the looks of the faces in the crowd, their brand of musical humour was undoubtedly too crude for some. They finished up by thanking a power even higher than the DCA, singing the ‘Thank You Jesus’ sonnet, none of which I could repeat here.
Judging by the joyous celebrations of the 2009 launch, it could be a bumper year for Deckchair, who are entering a new era by creating an identity as the home of contemporary theatre in WA.
Gala Night of Nights
Venue: Port Cinema, 86 Adelaide Street Fremantle
Date/Time: Friday 5 December at 8pm.