Tag: Raymond Martini

Review: The Hitmen

Get hired or get fired (at)

By Owen James

The latest black comedy from Baker’s Dozen Theatre Company riffs on the relentless job-hunting struggle facing 5.3% of Australians today. So desperate are six jobless hopefuls that working as a hired killer for professional assassination syndicate KOC (Killing On Command) is deemed a legitimate possibility. The Hitmen depicts a group-job-interview-cum-survival-of-the-fittest for these six employees, where only one will prevail with both the job and their life.

Writer Mish Wittrup and director Blake Barnard have created a world of unadulterated absurdity, where regular social constructs are often demolished or ignored, and we see normal people become wild animals ala Battle Royale. The pressure-cooker setting mixed with classic “only one can survive” setup is a strong premise which ensures the exposition is, for the most part, pleasantly swift and snappy. Wittrup craftily weaves individual backstories and motivations for most characters into the narrative with asides and soliloquys spattered throughout, which immediately makes each ‘John’ far more fascinating once we know why they’re there.

These six Johns (giving real names leads to execution) portray rising desperation with feverish realism, allowing the many moments of violence to feel deserved and authentic. Two audience favourites are undoubtedly Eidann Glover and Raymond Martini, who both give dedicated and extremely humorous performances. Glover finds comedic flare in her character’s unwavering unlikability but also genuine warmth in her affection for partner John (Harry Borland), and Martini plays the gamer nerd out of his depth to perfection. Cazz Bainbridge as tyrannical head honcho Gwendoline sometimes moves too fast through moments of potential comedic gold, but successfully creates a dominating and minacious persona who is always one step ahead of the game.

Amidst characters’ wavering integrity and blood splatters galore is a subversive and gratifying (but extremely dark) comedy, with meaningful comments about the societal juncture desperate job seekers face in contemporary Australia – what lengths may some go to just for a paycheque? Though tempting, can we live with an unethical choice? It is the abandonment of solidarity when in the face of disparity that these corrupt individuals barely question as they undergo the world’s most erratic and stressful job interview that provokes many fascinating questions, and may also force you to consider how strong your own moral compass would be were you in this environment. When it’s a world of every man for himself, is it possible to unify against our unethical leaders? Or, as Wittrup and co perhaps suggest, do we willingly accept our fate and the sniper’s headshot.

The Hitmen plays until March 14 at Theatre Works, St Kilda: http://www.theatreworks.org.au/program/the-hitmen/

Photography by Justine McArthur

Review: Batmania

Sold out for a reason

By Owen James

One world, two shows. The Very Good Looking Initiative have created the dark, satirical world of Batmania, and given audiences two immersive experiences to choose from to discover this whacky, inane place. Expo ’19 takes place in one static place at Theatre Works in St Kilda, and the Bus Tour departs from around the corner and brings you back to Theatre Works 90 minutes later, just in time for the final goodbye at Expo ‘19. Both versions of Batmania have now completely sold out.

I went along on the Bus Tour, which was undoubtedly one of the most unique theatrical experiences I’ve had in a while, but especially at this year’s Fringe (so far). As the bus visits different places in St Kilda (sorry, “Batmania”), our overly cordial, happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care tour guides (Guide Raymond and Guide Vidya) are cheery almost to the point of painful – until events take a turn for the worst. This ingenious shift in tone comes as a surprise, creating a highly engaging, alluring atmosphere. It’s a delightfully enjoyable ride, and presents many moments of black comedy at its finest. But be warned: audience members not prepared for high levels of interaction will find this the stuff of nightmares.

Both Raymond Martini and Vidya Rajan deliver delightfully energetic, hilarious, and sometimes terrifying performances. Their descent from unpredictable ecstatic mania to rabid, cacophonic-but-catatonic beasts is carried out extremely well, and secured a vast range of responses from assorted passengers (sometimes just as fun to observe as the guides). Thankfully, despite the pandemonium and public territory, we always feel safe in the hands of these skilled performers.

Our blokey, arrogant bus driver (Elliott Gee) plays an important part in the madness too, always happy to perturb and provoke Raymond and Vidya as recent arrivals to his lifetime hometown Batmania. His quirky quips and rough demeanour provide many of the biggest laughs on the bus.

As we first boarded the bus, clearly no-one was quite sure what to expect. And as we alighted at the end of the trip, the feeling hadn’t really shifted. Though Batmania’s premise has a lot of promise, the experience overall seems not fully realised or cohesive. A lot of tension is built – very successfully, which then dissipates and has no real conclusion or payoff. While this may be intended to mirror contemporary Australia, as a theatrical experience, it is underwhelming. There is a lot of fun to be had on the journey though, and I would love to see the concept executed in a future iteration on a grand scale – it could run for a very long time.

I applaud The Very Good Looking Initiative for launching such a high-concept, out-of-the-box, very special production. Batmania embraces the awkward and rejects expectation, poking fun at Australiana and our culture with a very large stick, and dashes of parodic political humour. If a return season is mounted, grab your ticket fast.

Tickets (there are none): https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/batmania-the-bus-tour/



Stories of silence, speaking out and survival

By Myron My

There’s a strong sense of unease as I take my seat for Little Daughters. Having to walk through the seven motionless actors on the stage to get to my seat is quite eerie and almost intimidating. They are all dressed in black and with the stage bare and cloaked in black too, there is a dark mood that covers the room. The six men on stage stare intently at the sole woman: their eyes pierce through her skin as if they were daggers.

Little Daughters

It is never explicitly stated what happens to this woman (Annie Lumsden) but we get enough information to know that she is the victim of a sexual assault. The six men portray a doctor, boyfriend, friends and possible assailant. The one thing they all have in common though is their demand at controlling and handling the situation. While the men discuss the woman’s assault among them, they consistently talk at her when addressing the issue. The idea that she perhaps needs to forget about it and move on is thrown around, and there is an echo of doubt and frustration coming from them all, in particular the over-the-top portrayal of her doctor (Martin Can De Wouw), who is comically frightening in his assessment and treatment of Lumsden’s character.

Director Zachary Ruane delivers some great moments in his direction of Little Daughters: in particular, when having the men not only exit the stage at one point, but exit the room all together. Initially it’s down to Lumsden and Raymond Martini on stage. Again, while nothing is confirmed, you get the strong impression that his character is her assailant. It’s an ambiguously confronting moment that Ruane handles with great skill.

Ultimately it is once Martini leaves the room that Lumsden’s character can finally open up and speak freely about her experience and emotions. Sadly though, she can only feel like being honest when she is alone, when she is no longer being talked at or patronised or threatened by the men in her life. It’s a strange monologue but it shows the thought process and ideas that formulate in the mind of a survivor of sexual violence.

The reason it all feels so real and exposed is because playwright Annie Ferguson has based Little Daughters – her first full-length play – on her own personal experience with sexual violence. It’s an extremely brave piece that has been in formation for a number of years, that now generates the right amount of tension and exposition to slowly envelop us. Even though Lumsden’s character’s story is based on Ferguson’s experience, it could be anyone’s story, and we are all inside that story and we all need to start listening to survivors of sexual violence to bring that story to an end.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Season: Until 21 June | Wed 6:30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre