We’ve had, amongst many others, Angry Eddie, Shane Warne: the Musical and Perfect Tripod, now we are about to witness the world premiere of Eddie Perfect’s first ever stage play, The Beast. What should we expect? AussieTheatre’s Jan Chandler spoke with Perfect about his first ever stage play.
The Beast is new territory for this high profile and prolific comedian, performer, composer, musician and singer; a play without music and without Eddie Perfect written specifcally for the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC).
One of the MTC’s initiatives in 2013 was Zeitgeist, a slot set aside to bring the freshest, most contemporary theatre to Melbourne audiences. Eddie Perfect’s The Beast became the first commission of Artistic Director Brett Sheehy’s tenure and, as Sheehy says, “Eddie … delivered in spades.”
When I spoke with Perfect a few weeks ago, he expressed both excitement and apprehension about how his first stage play will be received:
“I’m really excited about the fact that I’m not in this play … I can sit down and watch this show and hope like hell that people will laugh. … it’s a ridiculous piece [but] now that I know that these words are going to come out of the mouths of the characters on stage, in front of actual people, I’m ‘oh god, how is this going to go down’.”
Comedy, or should I say satire, is Perfect’s chosen genre. To date he has used his distinctive combination of music and laughter to disarm and unsettle his audiences, entertaining them whilst also challenging them to question some of their carefully held attitudes and beliefs. As he tells me “you can get away with more in song than when the performance is spoken” and yet he’s about to do away with song.
When he first thought about writing a play, Perfect wanted to write it for the MTC. “I think I know the audience … reckon I can write this play that will just completely offend every single one of them, but, at the same time, it might be a really cathartic experience, and fun, because I don’t exclude myself from that demographic.”
Perfect describes The Beast as a “total satire of the middle class and it doesn’t take any prisoners”. While it does not set out to mock good intentions, it does “take a firm swipe at anyone that uses a cause as a banner to advertise their innate goodness.
I immediately comment that this seemed to suggest that he might alienate his chosen audience. His response: “I don’t know why but deep in my DNA is the need to put up a show that offends the very audience that might possibly want to see it.”
Perfect is enthusiastic about the team he has supporting him: the MTC, the creative team and his “incredible cast” which include Travis Cotton, Virginia Gay, Hamish Michael and Kate Mulvany. “The actors seem to be enjoying it … we laugh a lot when we do reads, but then actors like to go to ridiculous places.”
Perfect will be hoping that audiences are equally happy to travel to “ridiculous places” and that they will find plenty of opportunities to laugh along the way.
The Beast by Eddie Perfect
3 October–9 November
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner