Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reviews: Dead Caesar and Dinner

Hello, regular reader. You might notice I've dropped the nom de keyboard I was using for this blog and am just using my real name. Why? Because Quick is actually the name of the hero of the crime novel I am about to get back to writing and he's nothing at all like I am. One of those wanky creative things where I needed to separate blog me from the character completely.

What else. Oh The Important Job Interview... Nothing terribly predictable happened, like me running late because my shoelace got caught in the escalator at the railway station and they had to shut the whole thing down and get the emergency rescue people in and in the end I decided that rather than be late I'd leave the entangled shoe there and make it to the interview on time wearing one shoe, which I put in dog poo but didn't notice until the interview was underway.

Nothing typical like that.

Still, it could have been better. I probably won't get the job. I didn't realise how much I wanted it until I arrived at the office. I wanted that job a lot and it would have been the start of New And Good things. Oh well. Getting the interview at all was a bit of a coup and the experience was good.

Below are two reviews as they came out, more or less, in Drum this week. I had intended to expand on the 350 words of column space I'm allowed for each, but I can't be bothered right now. Right now, I want wine.


Having watched the Chaser team grow ever more desperate for laughs on the small screen (did anyone find the Sophia Loren thing funny?), I was curious to see this play, a comical look at the life and times of Julius Caesar, written by The Chaser’s Chris Taylor.

No desperation here, just a big, silly romp. It’s farce with song and dance, a sprinkle of lefty preaching and loads of laughs. The Monty Python influence is unforced but unmistakable. Dead Caesar played to a packed audience and the laughter rarely stopped.

Actors break out of character, cue’s are missed with precise comic timing, racial stereotypes are nailed, everyone falls down and gets up again, there are songs about togas, songs about scene changes even when there are no scene changes, a very funny bit about a NIDA-trained thespian pissed off because he only gets one line (this is milked to perfection), there’s a bit of cabaret, more silly ditties, stabbing, more stabbing, a song about stabbing, a bit more stabbing, lots of referential jokes from everyone from local theatre critics to Diver Dan to Steve Irwin to Amanda Vanstone, and there are a couple of interludes featuring the stabbing scene as interpreted by the likes of Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen.

And just for good measure, there’s a bit more stabbing.

I agree with playwright Chris Taylor who thinks Shakespeare missed his opportunity when he wrote Julius Caesar, but it’s just as well because it’s given Taylor the opportunity to redress the bard’s oversight. How can a story about a political leader wearing a toga and being stabbed by his closest toga-wearing friends not be funny?

I think even Sophia Loren would find Dead Caesar a bit of a cack.

At Wharf 2 until July 28.


Perfect, wealthy wife Paige holds a dinner party to celebrate the publication of her husband Lars’ new self-help book. The guests include dippy hippy Wynne, former lover of Lars; a scientist mate of Lars, Hal, and his brand new ‘news babe’ trophy wife Sian; and rough around the edges stranger Mike. There’s also the menacing presence of a silent and efficient waiter hired especially for the occasion, and we know from the start that the waiter’s going to do it, but we don’t know exactly what he’s going to do.

The dinner party as a battleground is hardly an original device, but it does present the opportunity for heated discussion of ideas as well as the clash of personalities as egos and personal rivalries are unleashed by copious quantities of wine, thus ensuring The Dinner Party as an enduring theatrical setting. Oh yeah – there’s also plenty of opportunity humour, served, in the case of Moira Buffini's play, with acid.

The humour is probably what will ensure this season is a success. Belinda Giblin is excellent as Paige, so icy and acerbic it’s scary. She skewers her guests and her husband with ice pick precision as her bizarre culinary concoctions are laid out on the lavishly set table. Alice Livingstone as the tree-huggin’ Wynne also has several quite hilarious moments. In fact all characters have their moments, albeit it with varying degrees of success, with the scientist and the news babe feeling a little like caricatures there for the set-up rather than properly fleshed out characters.

And that’s probably the weakest aspect of the play – each character represents something larger, which in turn makes us question what, exactly, the play is saying; it is questioning the notion of fulfillment and what true happiness is. Much is made of Lars’ great tome of wisdom, and there is a great little sight gag which speaks volumes about the self-help industry.

If the play is not completely fulfilling with close scrutiny, it does come close if you simply sit back and enjoy it for it’s deliciously dark comedy. Definitely worth seeing.

At SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross until 4 August.


Mel said...

Gudday Lee,
very brave of you to take the mask off ... you have a great story-telling talent. Even with dog poo on your foot. :)

Kathryn said...

More stabbing, please. Do let me know if you hear this Dead Caesar play is coming to the States any time soon. Ta.

Lee B. said...

Ta, Mel. I ended up truncating the name because it just looked bloody silly for some reason. Maybe I'm just so used to seeing a blog name on my blog.

Sure Kat. It probably won't go OS as it's a very local thing, but you never know. It was a bloody good romp though.