REVIEW | It’s Dark Outside | Celebrating 10 years of wonderful theatre

Review | Laura Money

It’s Dark Outside makes a triumphant return to Perth in the intimate Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre WA. Debut show of The Last Great Hunt ten years ago, It’s Dark Outside is a powerful piece of theatre that is still as potent and emotional today. With its original cast of founding members, this show’s return to stage is a beautiful reminder of how remarkable The Last Great Hunt truly is and that they are on top of their game. As for the show – it’s stunning and sweet and packs an emotional punch that will leave you thinking about your own little clouds for a long time to come.

Brainchild of Perth theatre makers Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs, and Tim Watts It’s Dark Outside sees all the fledgling hallmarks of what we know to be distinctly The Last Great Hunt. There’s incredibly detailed puppetry, bodily transformations, inanimate objects coming to life, shadow play, and mixed media interplay. Add in a heart-warming story and a distinct soundtrack and you’ve got an intimate and unique take on aging and dementia. That one hits you like a body shock – as the old man (Gray) in mask form and Watts and Isaacs in puppet form goes on what appears to be a whimsical journey full of Western clichés and a few surprises all the while losing parts of himself in the form of clouds that just float from his head. At first they seem fun, like cute little ideas, until you realise they are parts of him that he desperately struggles to retain. There is so much expression and heart in the old man – from Gray’s slow and deliberate movements, to the gorgeous puppet dancing in a reverie of his own past you are rooting for him all the way.

It’s Dark Outside is a true gem of Australian theatre. Almost entirely non-verbal, it takes you on a journey of discovery, memory, and hope. Let’s hope that The Last Great Hunt continue to remount this piece as it thoroughly deserves to be in the spotlight.

You can catch It’s Dark Outside at the State Theatre of WA until 2nd April 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

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REVIEW: Bite The Hand | Examining our relationships with man’s best friend

Review | Laura Money

What would it be like to understand what your dog says? From such a simple premise arises an existential play that examines our relationships with animals, each other, and our own psyches. Bite The Hand by Chris Isaacs is perhaps the most loaded and intelligently titled work circulating Perth. Brilliantly directed by Matt Edgerton and featuring a stellar cast, Bite the Hand appears innocuously funny and wholesome until darker threads are woven into the piece. Through convincing performances that fully suspend disbelief to a stunning set and edgy sound and lighting, this play will stay…..stay…..good audience! Apologies, will stay with you for a very long time.

In a surreal turn of events, Sam (Alicia Osyka) surprises her partner Dale (Amy Mathews) with the granting of family dog Alice (Arielle Gray) with human consciousness. It is something the couple had discussed but Dale hadn’t committed to, so with the help of her brother Wes (Michael Abercromby) she bites the bullet and does it anyway. Dale has been experiencing severe mental health problems and it is implied that she had recently self harmed. Mathews wanders into the living room a little vaguely – she is our vehicle into the bizzare world of Bite The Hand. Isaacs’ script is crisp and honed without any exposition dialogue in sight. Rather than have Wes tell us all what’s going on, Rex bursts onto the scene to show us. Rex, played expertly by Jeffrey Jay Fowler is Wes’s dog. Fowler is energetic and a little hyper, shaking his long hair from his face like fur and adopting the pose and mannerisms of a dog perfectly. However, it is Fowler’s dialogue, tone and expression that cements this brilliant performance. Cheeky, clever, and hilarious Rex flits from happy topic to happy topic like being a ‘good boy’, getting pats, and defending his stick from crows. It’s exactly what one would assume a dog cares about. Abercromby and Fowler have amazing chemistry and are truly believable as master and dog.

Speaking of chemistry, the transformation in Mathews’ Dale is phenomenal when Alice enters her life reborn. Gray gives the performance of a lifetime and is so detailed and exuberant in her performance as the above average intelligent Alice. Her mannerisms are convincing and nuanced, from the little whimpers to the slight aggression, and of course that hilarious bum wiggle. It is her facial expressions and sincerity that are so endearing – rolling around with Dale, Alice manages to elicit a feeling of happiness and uplifting energy in her. Osyka’s Sam is wary but Mathews manages to convince her and Wes that everything is ok. Until it isn’t. Throughout the show, the television in the living room features different artwork on it. A Rorschach Test looking brain scan image assists the audience in navigating Dale’s mental health and headspace. Bryan Woltjen‘s amazing set and costume design intelligently hints at each character’s journey. From the screen that serves as a mental health check in and provides the context for outside settings, to the playful and sinister costuming of Fowler as he takes on dual roles everything is considered. Dale hides under big blankets, all of the actors bounce off the versatile seating, and the outside area hints at something almost surreal and kitsch with its white picket fence, fake lawn, and front door complete with doggy door. Combined with subtle shifts in lighting by Rhiannon Petersen and the fact that there are literal talking dogs, the play does surreal very well.

Every element of Bite The Hand is beautifully considered. It’s an intelligent piece of theatre that is accessible to all. Fowler and Gray are so good at performing as dogs – actually the entire cast is brilliant at it as we see in the moonlight gathering scenes – that they elicit an exceptionally sympathetic response. Gray is phenomenal as the brilliant Alice – an absolute prodigy of a dog who undergoes an existential crisis and calls into question the relationship dynamics between domestic dog and master. The enlightening of Alice is so profound that I’m sure more than one tear will be shed as the play comes to its inevitable conclusion. Osyka and Abercromby enjoy some gritty scenes together and their words crackle and spark around the stage – Abercromby is subtle in his revelation that Wes doesn’t have much respect for dogs or mental health. He shows his true colours in a sinister manner that comes about the closest this work does to being a bad guy. What I really love about this play, is that once all the bells and whistles of talking dogs and the novelty of the piece wears off, it is a heartbreaking exploration of the self and mental health. Mathews is great as Dale, a confused yet not infirm woman back from the brink of mental collapse, and spiraling that way again. She delicately balances feelings of paranoia and hurt with feelings of love and support, often confusing the two.

Isaacs has written an amazing play in Bite The Hand – there is so much going on it should garner a second watch. Subtle, clever, and thoroughly entertaining the final scenes will go down in history as some of the most shockingly memorable moments in theatre – as I’m sure Isaacs is aware of considering the allusion to Sunset Boulevard. So go and be a good boy or good girl and fetch your tickets to this unique show – you’ll have a ball! Ball! Ball!

Bite The Hand is on at Subiaco Arts Centre until 23rd October 2021. You can get your tickets HERE

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REVIEW: Perpetual Wake

In a world of absolute scrutiny, how hard can it be to actually keep a secret? There are lies and omissions in everyone’s story, but what happens when they begin to cause emotional pain and stress. Can lying ever go too far? Perpetual Wake, written by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Gita Bezard (and directed by Bezard) seeks to answer these questions and the problematic relationship between reviewers and creatives while tackling toxic masculinity, social media lenses, and literary snobbery. Through it’s David Lynchian rendering and charged atmosphere, fluidity of character and surreal moments, Perpetual Wake further cements The Last Great Hunt‘s niche in Perth’s theatre scene with its unique and culturally pertinent works.

Things aren’t always as they seem when blogger and social media influencer, Fiona West (Charlotte Otton) contrives to meet print media reviewer (and writer of one very successful novel) Paul Creel (Chris Issaacs) and charm him into reviewing her debut novel. Otton’s and Issaacs’ delivery is hilarious – they are overt and exaggerated in their speech patterns, highlighting the puffed up attitude of the dismissive Paul and the desperate need to prove herself in Fiona. There’s a wonderful running joke about Paul’s ‘difficult second novel’ and an undercurrent that social media is just as valid a profession as print journalism – but is it though? (The jury is still out on that point from this Editor!)

Arielle Gray plays Paul’s wife and romance novelist, Bernice – who has a secret of her own (doesn’t everyone?) Gray’s high strung and passionate Bernice is perfectly countered in her portrayal of Molly – the character in the fictional Perpetual Wake. Molly is a film noir-style femme fatale – silken, sassy, and serious. Each of the actors switch between the story within a story as Molly and Brack and do so with aplomb. Gray and Fowler initiate the characters, though in a hilarious early scene complete with Twin Peaks 90s horror vibes. Bryan Woltjen designed a simple and versatile set – but his crowning achievement is the car – it’s a wheel and headlights that resemble a truck frontage in an elegant way. As the yellow lights penetrate the darkness, the music crackles on the radio and Gray and Fowler stare straight out the windshield, the tension is palpable but so is the humour.

Perpetual Wake is the perfect vehicle to accentuate The Last Great Hunt‘s unique blend of social commentary, nostalgic style, and intelligent writing. There is a dark humorous thread weaving its way throughout – the straighter the actors play it, the campier and funnier the show becomes. Each performer is brilliant. Fowler’s portrayal of the stag is emotionally and hilariously charged and Otton even gets the chance to show off her pipes in a surreal rendition of a country song that sounds familiar but is entirely new. Therein lies the charm of Perpetual Wake – it takes familiar themes and characters, plays up the tropes and heightens the language, combines it with cultural cues and mixes it all in a kitsch milieu.


Review | Laura Money

WHEN: 28 August – 7 September 2019 | 7:00pm

WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | SUBIACO

INFO: Tickets $32 – $40 | Duration 90 mins | No interval | Recommended 15+ | Coarse language, sexual references, simulated sex scene, violence and gun use, haze effects