Werewolf Priest! The Lamentable Ballad of Father Hank GrimbyImage – Gillian Berry

If you like your retro-style entertainment in Perth, there's a good chance you will have seen a moustachioed chap named Magnus Danger Magnus. He's kind of an institution in this town, a "Perthonality" if you will. He's a well-known, well-loved and charismatic emcee at burlesque and cabaret events, karaoke nights at Deville's Pad, and even New Years Eve at the Northbridge Piazza, just to name a few. He had lots of fans in the audience on the night I saw him performing in Werewolf Priest, The Lamentable Ballad of Father Hank Grimby, as I'm sure he will on every other night of the show's run.

The reason I mention Magnus first is that he's one of the best things about this show. He's just as entertaining here as he is everywhere else; he's got keen comic timing, great presence, and can brandish a weapon with flair. He's camp and kitsch, a little bit vaudeville, and a touch old Hollywood swashbuckler. If you're a fan of Magnus, he won't disappoint.

Stephen Lee also makes a good effort here with his German accent and odd quirks, which range from a very polite drug habit to a penchant for freshly culled human organs. He functions as the eccentric-but-wise advisor, Doctor Talbert, and seems to know when and where to inject the much-needed humour into this horror show. Siobahn Dow-Hall is a lovely singer.

Sadly, these elements cobbled together can't make the production work. It doesn't seem to find footing, and although the show is sometimes funny when it's camp, it's unintentionally laughable when it takes itself too seriously. The horror elements are fun but too few and far between, as most of the time it drags along in some kind of Beauty and the Beast/Phantom of the Opera knock-off territory.

The dialogue is average, the plot is derivative, and for the most part, the songs don't further the action or add any insight into the characters. The setting is unclear, the design elements lack polish, and the constant rolling off and on of set pieces is tiresome.

Despite these things, half the audience seemed to lap it up on the night I went. One patron (father of an actor?) was so moved in his admiration of the piece that he pulled out his point-and-shoot camera and took flash photos during the performance. The other half of the audience seemed to display a combination of mild bewilderment and mortification with a hint of schadenfreude. Perhaps Doctor Talbert could translate that bit of German for the audience.

Werewolf Priest! The Lamentable Ballad of Father Hank Grimby
by Levon J Polinelli

Director Levon J Polinelli

Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | 53 James Street, Northbridge WA
Dates: 20 May – 7 June, 2014
Tickets: $15 – $25
Bookings: http://blueroom.org.au

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