Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Hoax at La Boite [*]

Wasn't much in terms of banners from La Boite, so that's from Griffin
(Source: Griffin Theatre Company)
La Boite and Griffin Theatre Company's A Hoax, directed by Lee Lewis, is so engaging that I didn't even check my watch for the time. A great premiere for a smart script with a flawless cast, this is the first La Boite show of the year that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A Hoax is about a white social worker, Ant (Glenn Hazeldine), who has written a fictional autobiography in the perspective of a young Aboriginal girl named Currah. In order to get the book published by the prolific and much sought-after agent Ronnie (Sally McKenzie), he hires Miri (Shari Sebbens) to pretend to be Currah. With the help of Ant and Ronnie's sassy gay friend Tyrelle (Charles Allen), Miri grows to embody Currah, taking on the life that was written for her and then some. Pressure mounts when the book is an absolute hit, and readers, in addition to the publishers' contract, demand a sequel. The elaborate little white lie that brought Currah to life becomes a tedious hoax that spirals out of control very quickly and gets worse with every additional detail added to it.

The cast are exceptional, which is fortunate because they all get around the same amount of stage-time. Glenn Hazeldine is so engaging with his handling of the difficult Ant, who's a pretty wretched character. He's forced to be domineering to control his scam but is eventually disgraced by his own product. Shari Sebbens, playing the product Currah, is ravishing, acting the outspokenly occa but timid girl before becoming the calculated celebrity. Charles Allen is a delight, throwing himself into the role of the incorrigible Tyrelle with wild, reckless abandon. His snappy vulgarity in combination with the diva attitude of the character is outrageously entertaining, and he delivers the best lines in the show. Sally McKenzie as the two-faced neurotic agent is equally enjoyable - I get the feeling she tripped over her lines a number of times, but continued with such gusto it really adds an extra kick to her dotty character.

The script, which is written by Rick Viede, is very well written, being compelling despite the absence of significant action. The pacing of the piece is fairly slow but manages to be gripping since it's so intriguing to see what lies need to be concocted to ensure that the clandestine lifestyle of Currah can be maintained. Simultaneously, and what's most interesting, we see the asymmetrical development of Currah's undeserved rise to fame while watching Tyrelle's unfortunate descent into poverty, and examine how the characters develop to accommodate their luck. The only scene which seems out of place is the climax. It feels like it disrupts the flow since the huge jump is top jarring to take seriously. I pondered how realistic the scenario would be in real life too, and regardless of the passionate foreshadowing, it still struck as pretty unlikely. The quality of the prop was questionable also.

The sound design in this production is very reminiscent of Toulmin's work with Julius Caesar. It's not prominent, but emerges more in the second half and is dark and brooding. Renée Mulder's sterile white pristine set, which seems initially simplistic but striking, carries its own subtle commentary on Currah's situation living in a world that is manufactured for her.

As a new Australian dramatic work, A Hoax does really well. The script is smart and engaging to watch as the dreadful tension builds, and it's brought to life by the exceptionally talented cast. It was so enjoyable, and there's even an intermission! Lovers of realism and tension come on down!

Tickets for 'A Hoax' range from $22-$48, and is showing until May 25th. Duration of 2 hours and 25 minutes, including interval. Book by visiting La Boite's website or by calling (07) 3007 8600.

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