Melbourne Festival: The Beast

It’s impossible to not adore Eddie Perfect. He sings and dances like an entire 1930s Hollywood musical, he has the best hair and he lets us laugh and cringe at the best and the worst of ourselves.

This man had me laughing at a rape joke in one of his shows and made me care about Shane Warne. And I like him on that telly show. As a satirist, Eddie gets middle class, pseudo hipster, moving-away-from-the-inner-city Melbourne. And he mercilessly attacks those things that make us fume or at least roll our eyes at.

If you want to see Eddie doing all of this amazing stuff, he’s performing a retrospective of his best solo work (and some new stuff) at the Festival Hub on Sunday 13 October. Even better news: it’s FREE! But you can’t book. You’re going to have to get in line. But you can buy coffee, drinks and all sorts while you wait. The doors open at 5 and I suspect that anyone not there by then will be listening outside.

But, this is a review of The Beast, not a rave about Eddie.

The Beast is Perfect’s first play, which was commissioned by the MTCs Artistic Director Brett Sheehy. Who wouldn’t want to commission the first Perfect play?! But I’m not sure why a first work is put on in the biggest theatre as the MTC’s contribution to the Melbourne Festival.

Three mates nearly die in a boat accident and when they get back to shore, they pack up their wives and lives and head to the Valley for a life of organic bliss with a fairy-light carbon footprint and endless respect for the animals that sacrifice themselves for our plates. There’s property price, wine, smoking and pedophile jokes galore and there’s a brilliant calf.

Yes, it’s funny and I knew it was about me and my world at the early awkward verjuice joke – I don’t have verjuice in my cupboard, but I do have three different types of balsamic vinegar. There’s an hilarious, sharp, gut-punch of a play that’s getting lost because it’s suffering from a lot of first-work issues and tries so hard to shock and offend that it loses any genuine shock value.

It’s over written for the sake of repeating jokes and explaining what we know, the characters sound too similar and there’s some clunky plotting that gives the end away early and doesn’t feel natural in the created world. But its biggest issue is characters who are hard to care about. They are so hell-bent on being outrageous exaggerations that those moments of empathy and care are too hard to find. And this is what Perfect did so well in Shane Warne, the Musical: we cared about Warney, despite him being a bit of dick. This mob are just dicks.

And on the stage, no one can decide on a tone as it runs the gauntlet from slapstick to farce to bitter satire and sweet comic affirmation. This leaves it getting its laughs by falling from joke to joke, rather than from its bigger story and maybe some self reflection.

The Beast split passionate opinions on opening night and there will be rave reviews. But I’d let this one settle into its run and and wait until later in the season.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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