Left – Shari Sebbens. Cover – Charles Allen. Photos – Al Caeiro
La Boite & Griffin Theatre Company's production of A Hoax by Rick Viede is a bold and flagrant investment in a new Australian work. It's in-your-face theatre that catapults the audience deep into the twisted minds of four misfits all of whom long to be somebody big. The audience is taken on a high voltage roller coaster ride as we watch each character's soul being sucked out through a straw. A Hoax is entertaining theatre that borderlines on compelling; it has oomph and is guaranteed to make you laugh. However, I was left feeling a little empty, as though there was some moment of pathos I missed. A bit like that challenging 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle you can't finish because there's one piece missing.
The premise of A Hoax is a fascinating subject, literary fraud packaged as the misery memoire. In the first moments of the play when we are introduced to aspiring author Anthony Dooley (Glenn Hazeldine) and the impressionable and somewhat lost Miri Smith/Currah (Shari Sebbens), the dramatic tension is delicious. We don't know why this man and young woman are in a hotel room or why he's paying her to be there. Anthony leaves upon Miri's request and in bursts Ronnie Lowe (Sally McKenzie). Within a few minutes we are enlightened, we understand that Miri has agreed to act as though she has written the memoire of abuse and survival, 'Nobody's Girl', because Ant(hony) knows he has no chance of having it published. Ronnie wants to be Currah's literary agent, the dollar signs are flashing in her eyes. Add Ronnie's sidekick, the flamboyant Tyrelle Parks (Charles Allen), who also wants in, and the cast of misfit characters and the set up is complete.
Engaging and highly energetic performances were given by all the cast. A lesser cast would not have done this play justice. Shari Sebbens' dim witted but starry eyed Currah is wonderful to watch – she retains Currah's thirst and appearance of a lack of soul believably for the entire piece. Glenn Hazeldine as Ant is the only character who I aligned with momentarily on the sympathy stakes. Glenn portrays Ant's passive aggressive nature in a very endearing and vulnerable way. Sally McKenzie masterfully plays a fantastic ocker, an unflinching female equivalent to Kerry Packer. Making his Australian stage debut, Charles Allen powers his way through from the clichéd to the deeper side of the 'gay and black' Tyrelle.
Lee Lewis' direction keeps this play swirling and flowing at a giddying pace for the majority of the piece, so when the action begins to slow, the contrast and emphasis created is both visually and dramatically gripping. The stark white set design and integration of multimedia by Renee Mulder, in combination with her costuming, adds a great edge to the production. Jason Glenwright's lighting design and Steve Toulmin's music, sound & AV design also keeps the play buzzing brilliantly at its exhaustingly heightened state.
A Hoax is a play you won't easily forget, although there are moments you might like to – it's ballsy theatre that grabs its subject matter by the short and curlies (for want of a better expression). But while its topic and brashness is exciting, I didn't really connect with any of the characters. I wasn't able to sympathize with any of the personas presented to me and therefore wasn't truly engaged on an emotional level. At times A Hoax's gaudy nature felt a little more American than Australian and I found myself wishing I had been kept in the dark about the hoax itself for a little bit longer to induce a different kind of tension. If you're okay with sensitive subject matter being treated like a cheap throw away joke, love a good poke around in the darker side of the human psyche and what motivates it, then you have to go and see A Hoax and support this stimulating new piece of high impact Australian theatre.
La Boite and Griffin Theatre Company presents
by Rick Viede
Director Lee Lewis
Venue: La Boite's Roundhouse Theatre, Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove Village
Dates: 5 – 26 May, 2012
Times: Tues & Wed 6.30pm, Thurs - Sat 7.30pm
Matinees: 2pm Sat 26 May and selected mid-week shows
Tickets: from $22