Photos – Daniel Grant
Plenty of unsolicited advice served up with an abundance of good intentions and slick dance moves in an entertaining performance.
Opening with portentous music, the ominous lighting promising louring devastation, five performers advance forward from the rear of the stage in separate and distinct slow motion moves, faces wracked with anguish... Reaching the front of the stage, they line up shoulder to shoulder in their rainbow selection of tracksuits, the mood lifts, the lights brighten and the barrage of advice begins.
Commencing with tips on giving advice, complete with pointers on how this may be received, the performers work separately and as an ever changing ensemble pattern to deliver opinions, tips and some recurring directives. Covering all areas of life including skin care, workout regimes, various stages of relationships, career development, housework, family issues, parenting, sexuality in society, cultural appropriation, social skills generally and sexual etiquette, the helpful hints keep coming. In true to life fashion, many pieces of advice are immediately directly contradicted. Value judgements abound – what things are “worth it” and what is not. Again reflecting daily existence, these value judgements shift from scene to scene. The advice moves from everyday response to changes and choices to surreal guidelines for office equipment and dinosaurs facing imminent extinction, to some pointers for living through the eventual end of days...
Working on an open stage, with no props or set beyond staggered ribbons defining the area boundaries, the ensemble create engaging visual effects with dance and movement breaks. These occur between themes, with the music rising and the dancers emoting through their incredibly expressive faces, and during monologues in a variety of ways, through acting out instructions given or forming a moving backdrop to the speaker ranging from line dancing to aerobic workout sessions, all maintaining flat, direct gazes into the audience.
Tightly working as an ensemble, the rapid delivery of so many lines delivered in such a stylised manner trips up some speakers on occasion (on opening night), but the combination of solo, shared and full chorus delivery is effective in a mesmerising fashion. Individually, each speaker is clear and direct, clearly understood and impressive with the feat of memory displayed. The dance moves change from scene to scene, the choreography working to emphasise each performer’s tight physical control. The beat of the synchronised movements reflects the rhythmic patter of the delivery of spoken lines, bringing the whole work together as a coherent piece.
Jeffrey Jay Fowler demonstrates facial expressions that are surely not possible on most living humans, at times so exaggerated as to be a bearded emoji. Combined with his alluring hip movements and intense gaze into the audience, his rants are delivered with disturbing directness. Frieda Lee demonstrates dramatic versatility, bringing passion to her lines and crisp wit to her well-timed ripostes to advice that assumes various cultural norms. Arielle Gray steps forward with a common sense voice delivering all manner of hot tips as found in internet listicles, her direct stare challenging any contradiction. Chris Isaacs brings a range of ready smiles to his role, making him the ideal candidate to bring home to meet the parents, and/or the sociopath most likely to spend his weekends re-laying patios. His steady monologue on how to treat women is chilling in its familiarity and a clear counterpoint to the feminist inclinations brought by other performers. Mararo Wangai brings more passion to the stage, coming to the fore to challenge cultural preconceptions as well as blending well in the more complex ensemble pieces.
Writer Gita Bezard creates a work that brings the frustrations of being part of larger society, blends with comic inclinations ranging from slapstick to grim gallows wit, and shares writing credits with the performers to ensure tight and sincere delivery. Karen Cook’s lighting design amplifies the moods associated with the various topics covered, while Brett Smith’s sound design allows the clear voices to carry through and while providing apt accompaniment for the shifting physical movements.
Defying neat categorisation, this latest work from The Last Great Hunt demonstrates their innovation and dedication to creating accessible theatre for diverse audiences.
The Last Great Hunt presents
Co-writers Gita Bezard, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs, Frieda Lee, Mararo Wangai
Director Gita Bezard
Venue: State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth Cultural Centre
Dates: 31 May – 10 June 2017
Tickets: $28 – $35