Tag: The Court House Hotel

North of Eight Presents TOYER

Inviting strangers to play

By Myron My

North of Eight is Melbourne’s new theatre company on the block and they return this month with their second show of their inaugural season, Gardner McKay’s Toyer. The Australian premiere of this psychological thriller takes place over roughly 24 hours with a stranger entering a woman’s life at a time when the city is being terrorised by a man who rapes his victims before lobotomising them.


Maude (Faran Martin) is a clinical psychiatrist who lives alone in her LA home in the hills and has recently drawn the attention of an unknown voyeur who watches her in the evenings. Peter (Kashmir Sinnamon) is a stranger who has just repaired Maude’s car and needs to use her phone to call his friend. With the “toyer” on the loose, so-called because he toys with his victims before he attacks, it might not be the safest option to let Peter inside, but he’s charming and friendly and makes Maude laugh, so should the risk outweigh the temptation?

Originally published in the early 90s, this play is unfortunately beginning to show its age, and what might have constituted suspenseful and dramatic material originally now results in frustration and disbelief at how the narrative progresses and the decisions the characters make. Coming in at just over two hours, the story becomes repetitive especially with the initial game of ‘will he or won’t he leave?’, and ‘is he or isn’t he the toyer?’ quickly wearing thin. There are some preposterous plot twists that occur, whereupon by the time the truth is revealed, there is very little surprise or interest to be had, and nor do we care what the fate of these characters will be.

While there is some thoughtful direction by Sarah Hallam that allows the actors time to fully comprehend the circumstances their characters find themselves in, there are moments when Martin’s performance seems too theatrical and the emotions her character expresses feel somewhat forced. Maude never feels genuine in her terror, the fault of which lies mainly with her character development in the story. However, there are instances when Sinnamon brings darker human elements to the surface with Peter that are able to ignite some interest from the audience – yet even this achievement can only be maintained for so long with this character before it starts to become predictable.

It really feels like McKay was so determined to create a thriller with Toyer that he ignored plot holes and the character development that could have kept his protagonists interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately the hard-working performances here suffer because of this, and there is unfortunately very little suspense to be felt. As a new theatre company, it would be great to see North of Eight performing more inspiring and contemporary works rather than this decades-old play that demands a lot from its audience and actors with very little pay-off.

Venue: The Courthouse Hotel 86 Errol St, North Melbourne. 

Season: Until 13 May | Tue – Sat 8pm
Tickets: $28 Full | $22 Conc 
Bookings: North of Eight

Image by Arun Munoz Photography

Impro Melbourne Presents GRAND THEFT IMPRO

It would be a crime to miss it

By Joana Simmons

After a sold-out season at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Impro Melbourne’s encore season of Grand Theft Impro is speeding full throttle to deliver fast paced improvisational goodness. Procuring ten titles from the audience, the five players deliver scenes, songs, and storytelling over the 50-minute show, resulting in hundreds of laughs.

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The cast write the ten audience suggestions on ten cards and hang them at the back of the stage. Titles for the evening I attended included “I love my chicken” “Where’s my kale” “Sauerkraut and chips” “Such is life when you are a stuffed racoon” and “Chaffing.” At the end of each scene, it is put to the audience to vote whether the scene is complete, or a fail. If the result is the latter, the players must redo the scene, until the audience gives it the thumbs up. The quick witted cast – comprised of Rik Brown, Jenny Lovell, Patrick Duffy, Mike Bryant and special guest from Sydney Steve Kimmens and accompanied by Ian White on the keyboard- worked together to present an array of scenes, contexts and characters. The innovation and skill level is very high, with the cast using multiple improvisational tools and snappy callbacks to create captivating and cackle-worthy entertainment.

I was very impressed with how quickly the players were able to flesh out scenes by giving elaborate detail to their scene partner, setting the story early, and raising the stakes to dramatic proportions. It’s these things that give us the audience something substantial to chew on and split our sides over. Some of the scene endings and transitions were naturally a little clunky, as the tech and music are also improvised; that being said, the cast did recover well and redeemed any false starts or endings with a smart one-liner. For a show with such strong structure impro-scene-wise, it is noticeable when the song structure is not as strong. I would have loved to hear a verse-chorus-verse-chorus song with a consistent rhyme scheme; which is notoriously difficult to do – but if anyone can, it’s this dynamic crew.

Warm up your winter with a hot whisky, a pub meal and all the hilarity being dished up at the Court House Hotel every Saturday till August 27th. Tonight’s show finished with a dazzling musical journey titled “Misery and Mermaid Tails”: t’was a fantastic finale that left me feeling warm inside. Every night is different, so catch one or catch them all; you won’t be disappointed.

Show Dates

Saturday nights, 8–9pm May 28th,- August 27th


The Court House Hotel
86-90 Errol Street
North Melbourne, VIC 3051


$15 online, $20 at the door. Show only.
Book online via Ticketmaster

Play Dead Theatre Presents TAPE

Close and claustrophobic thriller leaves nowhere to hide

By Amy Planner

Tape is a psychosomatic spectacle that pushes the boundaries of friendship and discovers there is always more than one truth when it comes to the past. Filled with about as much psychological drama as one hour can handle, Stephen Belber‘s one-act play throws you in the deep end and doesn’t apologise.


Set in a cheap motel room in Michigan, Tape examines the dramatic reunion of three high-school friends as they cross paths and reminisce about the seemingly unfortunate past. Vince is the drug-pushing truth-seeker with a broken heart; Jon, the moral filmmaker with an ostensibly immoral history; and Amy, the high-powered attorney with no time for games – well, mostly. When these high-school chums are reunited, their memories of the past collide as they struggle with that ever-illusive truth.

Stephen Belber deserves such supremely high praise for his hauntingly real dialogue and uncanny knack for saying just enough. In a play that is so well-paced and fraught with such naturalistic dialogue, the actors were set a difficult task and they smashed it all the way down Errol Street.

Adam Hetherington held Jon to the stern and initially unwavering brutality that he deserved and then fell so far into the character that his eventual unravelling was strikingly lifelike. Michael Mack, producer and lead actor as Vince, was fantastically unsettling – that’s a good thing, I promise. He transitioned seamlessly from the witty-tongued best bud in to a hyper-anxious cokehead with a point to prove. As Amy, Hester Van Der Vyver was a understated comparison at first but grew in to a subtle, almost psychotic player in this emotionally destructive warzone.

This small cast reached in to the most deep-seated corners of their psyches and what came out of it was a truly enthralling performance with so much depth, it barely seemed like a play: rather, an eavesdrop on a vivid intimate conversation.

The only brief lapsing moment came during the fight scene; slightly clumsy wrestling  proved a little too lumbering for the intimate space. However, there was a well-timed hint of comedic relief with a sort of pillow fight in the middle. But the actors and director, Jennifer Sarah Dean, should still be commended on the literal hard-hitting moments that were far too real to not leave a mark.

On entering the intimate, converted hotel room, the set seemed a little dated; however, as the play indicated, the realisation of cheap urban accommodation meant it couldn’t have been more fitting or well put together by set designer Aline Brugel.

Tape’s heaving hour of dramatic warfare doesn’t spare a moment and will have you encapsulated in its intimate intensity for every second; it is a truly unique and powerful production with talent oozing from the walls.


Venue: The Court House Hotel, 86-90 Errol Street, North Melbourne

Season: April 27th – May 7th. Wed-Thurs 7.30pm, Fri-Sat 8.00pm

Tickets: $25 Adult, $22 Concession

Bookings: www.playdead.com.au