Comedy, Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Hell nods to Beckett

Fringe World review: GOTO Hell by Cody Fullbrook ·
The Hellenic Community Centre, 9 February ·
Review by Tiffany Ha ·

GOTO Hell, fittingly staged in the Hellenic Centre of WA, is an impressive and ambitious offering from Perth writer, director and performer Cody Fullbrook. The 55 minute, one-act musical comedy centres on protagonist Daniel (played by Fullbrook), an opinionated atheist and YouTube celebrity. He finds himself magically transported to the depths of hell, after the devil curses his (obviously non-Mac) laptop. While he’s down there, Daniel finds his recently deceased girlfriend, Bethany (Mikaela Innes) and tries to make a deal with Satan (Mickey Dichiera) to get them the hell outta there.

The scenes that follow are entertaining, funny, clever and, in one musical number between Bethany and Daniel, surprisingly touching. GOTO Hell gives a nod to Beckett with its minimal staging, its light-hearted, comic approach to bleak subject matter and the characters’ witty and repetitive banter. The actors had great timing and delivery – knowing when to linger with pauses and when to pick up the pace. The chemistry was convincing and enjoyable to watch.

The musical accompaniment was provided by pianist Ryan Davies, who also co-composed the score. The piano is interesting and dynamic – firmly rooted in music-theatre style with flavourings of jazz and twentieth century classical. The songs are clever, engaging, melodically rich and were brilliantly performed by all cast members.

Overall, this is a great-looking, great-sounding show with an interesting premise and a talented cast and crew. But it left me a little cold. After discussion with other audience members, we came to the conclusion that GOTO Hell has a lot of promise, but under-delivers on the book*. The main character, Daniel, seems to be Fullbrook’s Author Avatar** – commenting on the action, becoming confounded or exasperated when things don’t make sense, telling people they’re wrong, but never really becoming embroiled in the action, and therefore never showing true vulnerability or undergoing any sort of transformation.

Since Daniel’s opinions are peppered quite liberally through the work (in YouTube video flashbacks and on stage), we begin to adopt some of his cynicism and apathy towards this world in which he’s The Only Sane Man. He bitterly accepts his fate, making sarcastic quips about everyone around him. They’ve really inconvenienced him by acting on their jealousy, naivety, blind belief and thirst for vengeance. He’s in a pickle, but we know he’s going to be fine because he’s always right and always does the right thing. It doesn’t make for a compelling Hero’s Journey.

One redeeming feature of the book – which is itself a redemption story – is the intriguing character arc of Satan. He’s badass and camp as hell. Actor Dichiera has a striking resemblance to Prince; his character is almost the exact opposite of Fullbrook’s (somewhat geeky, awkward). Perhaps it’s this contrast of lead characters, brought to life by strong performances, that holds this musical together. It’s certainly enough to overshadow Bethany’s woeful character arc: her existence as ‘that YouTube celebrity’s girlfriend’ is cut short when she inexplicably dies and gets sent to hell – that place our protagonist gets to go to for his next adventure!

But – are you ready for this paradigm shift? – don’t you think that in the cultural climate of 2018, the true hero of this story is the Dead Girlfriend of the Cynical Educated White Guy, who never got a word in edgeways, and now never will?

*book = musical theatre speak for the text, or story
**Author Avatar = ‘A fictionalised version of an author who appears as a character in the events of the story is often called upon to comment upon the situation, deliver the author’s verdict, and possibly break the Fourth Wall in a self-deprecating fashion.’

‘GOTO Hell’ closes February 17.

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