Delectable Shelter. By Benedict Hardie. The Hayloft Project. Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda. Tues-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm $28/$20 ($18 Tuesdays) Until April 17
A leading light on the independent theatre scene, The Hayloft Project enters the comic fray with a dystopian frolic that can’t decide whether it wants to be satire or farce.
Five survivors are stuck in a shelter after the annihilation of life on earth. This sci-fi Noah’s Ark contains a family of rich white idiots and a sinister engineer, ready to repopulate the planet when it becomes habitable 350 years hence.
It starts with a bizarre spectacle. Wearing flowing salmon vestments, the cast sings Roxette’s power ballad It Must Have Been Love in five-part harmony. As with other oddities, the intro’s cunningly explained as the plot unfurls.
The performances are excellent, especially Yesse Spence’s vacuous snob of a mother, and are at their funniest during physical humour and awkward situational comedy.
The script needs tightening, though. It resorts to laboured puns (Uranus jokes, anyone?) and is weak in its portrayal of the future. Sci-fi is always about our society now, and having the performers act like teenage valley girls and say ‘fuck-arse’ a lot doesn’t really cut it.
To be fair, Hayloft’s previous work has created ultra-high expectations. And if Delectable Shelter doesn’t master comedy the way Thyestes did tragedy, or The Nest naturalism, it still has outrageously amusing moments.
Brighter Whiter + The Gift. By Anthony Noack. The Workers Club, cnr Brunswick and Gertrude Sts, Fitzroy. Tues-Sat 7pm, Sun 3pm. $20/18 ($15 Tuesdays). Until April 10
Billed as two short plays in the tradition of absurdist theatre, Anthony Noack’s Brighter Whiter and The Gift are office comedies. They have less in common with Beckett, Ionesco et al than they do with contemporary theatre that explores corporate environments.
In Brighter Whiter, mail workers in the basement of an advertising agency dream of ascending to the corridors above. James Deeth puts in a wonderfully lackadaisical performance, though Soren Jensen overplays his offsider, a grating fantasist.
The Gift is a satirical fable set in a call centre. Three operators chafe against a manager from hell. When a sales prodigy enters the team, it’s a chance to escape the grind and realise their dreams – or is it? Elliot Cyngler’s stuttering newbie is hilarious; the others try too hard to be funny.
Noack has talent: his work is tight, well-paced, thoughtfully structured. But surely he must realise how many frustrated young artists write about the horrors of office life. These plays don’t stand out from the crowd.