Three men in a darkened room, lit by a frame of blue LED lights. One is being held by the others by his outstretched arms. It looks like they are restraining him.
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Freshman offering is razor sharp

Review: Lazy Yarns, Penthouse ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 31 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

This noxious little dive into low acts in high places first appeared as The View From the Penthouse in last year’s “TILT” programme from the graduating class of WAAPA’s Performance Making course, and it quite literally blew me away.

It’s back, with a shorter title but a longer run time, and, while it’s lost some terrific elements in the process there’s still much to like about the show – and loathe about its characters.

A man in a black mesh t-shirt, his arms up stretched, his head tipped back as though in ecstasy
Isaac Diamond as Fin, the pick-up from the street. Photo: Pixel Poetry

The transition from short (20/30 minute) “TILT” piece to full-blown 60 minute alt-theatre production has exposed a number of previous attempts as better skits than plays. Penthouse’s dramatic bones, however, are much better-set and durable, so the story of the criminally amoral billionaire predator Griffin (Haydon Wilson), his vicious, ambitious factotum Cal (Campbell Pollock) and their pick-up from the street, Fin (Isaac Diamond), who is needy enough to be in trouble and pretty enough to cause it, remains essentially intact and effective.

Fin doesn’t need much breaking down, But Griff and Cal go about it methodically. For Griff, Fin is just another chance to indulge his appetites, both physical and psychological. For Cal, though, who one suspects was once like Fin and knows him inside out, it’s about holding his territory and, ultimately, his survival.

Griff really doesn’t care who wins, or survives – it’s how it happens that gets him off. In so unequal a contest, the youngest and weakest doesn’t stand a chance.

Director Mitchell Whelan does a great job keeping things tight and tense on Kaitlin Brindley’s set of imagined floor-to-ceiling windows framed with LED lights. Lighting designer Phoebe Pilcher, with little to work with, skilfully suggests the darkness outside, and how far you could fall through it.

Two men dancing in the dark, lit by a frame of multicoloured LED lights.
The play’s centre piece is a wild ride through Fin’s hallucinations. Pictured are Campbell Pollock as Cal and Isaac Diamond as Fin. Photo: Pixel Poetry

Their work comes together in the play’s central set-piece, a wild ride through Fin’s hallucinations after he’s been slipped a little something by Cal. The actors, Pilcher and Whelan go nuts, and it’s as authentic a representation of a trip as you’re likely to see anywhere, let alone on a bare stage.

In that sequence, and not for the only time in the play, I was reminded of the Mick Jagger/Edward Fox/ Nicolas Roeg film Performance (1970). The same louche dissolution, same sexual ambiguity, same undercurrent – more than an undercurrent – of violence. That’s pretty good company for this freshman undertaking.

There are things I miss from the earlier, shorter version. Sam Hayes gave an amazing performance then as Griff, full of a dark, palpable menace that Wilson, for all his good work, simply can’t match.

Neither was giving Fin a talent – he’s a decent drummer this time – a success. He was better as an unmitigated disaster whose only potential might be in bed.

And I missed the music, from Van Morrison’s gorgeous “Sweet Thing” to “The Girl From Ipanema”, from Nirvana to Kanye West, that was the cherry on the top of the earlier version.

But you can’t always get what you want, and the second iteration of this razor-sharp little monster still has what we need on the stage.

Penthouse plays the Blue Room until November 17. 

Pictured top L-R: Campbell Pollock, Isaac Diamond, Haydon Wilson. Photo: Pixel Poetry.

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