Originally debuting in 2013 with MTC, Eddie Perfect’s The Beast is back onstage at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre. As the posters around the city suggest. The play is full of ‘Murder! Lies! Cows!’ – the ingredients Perfect uses to take his audience on a journey of set pieces, including a fishing trip, a tree-change and a gourmet wine-matched dinner.
The Beast follows three couples on a their move from Melbourne’s inner suburbs to the country, a decision based on a life-altering event that happened while the three men were on a charter fishing trip. The play begins with its most slapstick moments, as a crazed, dying sea captain recites the fluctuation of Melbourne’s property market while our leading men plan for a future that may not happen. The performances are the play’s biggest strength – there are no weak links amongst the six main characters. During The Beast’s press run, Perfect has described all his characters as arseholes. They’re the kind of arseholes that you might not want to hang out with, but definitely want to see interact with one another. This incarnation of the play is directed by Simon Phillips – the respected theatre, opera and musical director who previously worked with Perfect on his Warnie musical.
It’s both a dark satire and black comedy. Nothing is taboo with jokes about abortion, sex with an (albeit, of age) African sponsor child, male babysitters, and the wanky back and forth that goes on between middle-class, along with self-obsessed ‘foodies’ (a word that makes me cringe as I type it). While the play is funny from beginning to end, it feels more like a series of scenes than a fluid, flowing narrative. But that’s a tough criticism, since every scene has its own genuinely hilarious moments.
The cast of Rohan Nichol, Toby Truslove, Alison Bell, Heidi Arena, Christie Whelan Brown and Perfect himself do not miss a beat – each character has epiphanies of their own and sells their lines without trying too hard. Heidi Arena’s Sue fondling phallic carrots and Perfect’s unsure rant about different types of bread are two standouts. The fact that this story is based on a nose-to-tail dinner that Perfect attended in the Yarra Valley is just as ridiculous – it’s easy to imagine him taking mental notes while his fellow diners spout out elitist lines on why their butcher is more ethical than yours.
BY RYAN NAJELSKI
Image: Ken Nakanishi