Reviews/Perth Festival/Theatre

Dizzying skills on show

2 March 2021

He can’t tell you what happens because that would be giving the game away, but David Zampatti says The Last Great Hunt’s tech-driven multimedia show, Whistleblower, is unique and enthralling theatre.

Whistleblower, The Last Great Hunt, Perth Festival ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, 28 February 2021 ·

You may not have heard of Rose Kingdom-Barron – I certainly hadn’t until I watched her star in The Last Great Hunt’s new thriller, Whistleblower, for Perth Festival.

It’s hardly surprising, because even Rose didn’t know she would be the star of the show until she got to the Heath Ledger Theatre last night to watch it. A bloke named Tony Millar didn’t know he’d be a key supporting actor, and 15 or so others from the audience had no idea whether they’d be chosen as extras and bit players in it (having volunteered when booking).

All Rose was told was that her character, Charlie Baxter, was going to wake up in hospital, handcuffed to her bed, with amnesia. She had to find out why this had happened.

The Last Great Hunt got lucky with Rose. Over Whistleblower’s two hours, she kept her cool in some tricky situations, managed to suss out a couple of combinations to open safes and briefcases, and in the end chose the side of the angels – literally – when confronted with an existential moral dilemma.

Luckily for her, the few hundred audience members were all rooting for her, and when things got too diabolical even for a person with her ingenuity to work through, there was always someone at hand ready to nudge her in the right direction.

An audience member is interviewed on set. Photo: Daniel J. Grant

Making this sort of tightrope act work is something The Last Great Hunt (TLGH) – a collective of Perth-based theatre makers – has taken to a fine art. TLGH’s first attempt at interactive, multimedia, tech-driven theatre, Pollyanna, was a hit in Fringe World 2012. Three Fringes later the collective refined the concept in the Martin Sims Award-winning Monroe & Associates, where a hapless punter (I was one of them) had to survive 45 minutes of skulduggery from a homicidal bent cop while trapped in a caravan.

In 2019, TLGH mastered the complex craft of filmmaking live on stage in the extraordinary, dual Helpmann Award-nominated Lé Nør. Now they have brought all these skills together for Whistleblower.

I can’t tell you what happened to Rose, or who she met, or where she went. This is partly because all of the above depended on decisions she made along the way, which won’t be repeated in subsequent performances. And it’s partly because the show’s co-director, Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, asked us all not to give away the many games that are played in Whistleblower.

What I can report, though, is the dizzying skill of its shifting sets, of throwing up images and anticipating the unrehearsed lead character’s actions, all of which are captured and projected in real time on massive screens above the stage. In front of those screens a team of creatives and actors – technicians in white lab coats – works on a bank of monitors, dispatches actors into the fray at a gallop, and sets up “breaking news” interviews complete with scrolling taglines and graphics. The action looks for all the world like mission control for a Moon shot and is fascinating to watch.

‘Whistleblower’ co-directors Tim Watts, far left, and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd, second from right, with George Ashforth and Gita Bezard, order the actors about. Photo: Daniel J. Grant

Among the actors are company members Arielle Gray and Tim Watts, who co-directed the piece, and their colleagues, Gita Bezard and Chris Isaacs, who are part of the 11-strong “creative ensemble” that spins the show’s wheels within wheels. (For the record, the other two members of the company, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Adriane Daff, are busy on other Perth Festival projects.)

That’s really all I can tell you about Whistleblower, other than this is a unique and enthralling theatre experience, by its very nature full of surprises, with layers of tension both in and under its storyline.

It’s one more example of the singular art and craft of the six members of The Last Great Hunt, who, together and separately, are the most creative and critical element in WA theatre.

Whistleblower runs until 7 March, 2021 at the Heath Ledger Theatre.

Pictured top: An audience view of the set of ‘Whistleblower’. Some of the action takes place on stage, some is screened from remote locations in real time. Photo: Daniel J. Grant

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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