‘Penthouse’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by October 31, 2018

‘Penthouse’ is a wonderfully powerful, but distressing drama for adults.

Co-writers, Isaac Diamond, Haydon Wilson and Campbell Pollock, devised the exceptional play. It is being presented by The Blue Room Theatre and the ‘Lazy Yarns’, or as James McMillan, the publicity officer describes them, ‘three very rowdy boys’.

Lazy Yarns are Perth-based, contemporary raconteurs with a powerful Aussie opinion. Here they are with their first major production since leaving WAAPA. The troupe has created works in many genres, and in several media.

This 60-minute presentation can be seen in The Blue Room Studio Theatre, at Perth’s Cultural Centre, 65 James Street in Northbridge. The season runs in two sections. The 7.00 pm shows run until Sunday 11th November, with the late evening 8.30 pm performances from the 13th until Saturday 17th November.

 

The scene: today in Perth

The set is the top floor Penthouse, in a prestigious block of flats. This inventive, simple, and yet most effective set was designed by Kaitlin Brindley. There were LED strip lights along the cube edges, with several vertical strips to signify the window frames. When the LED ropes were fully illuminated, and all of the globes were the same colour, it seemed as though there were actually solid black walls on the room.

The penthouse sitting room was symbolised as a black cube frame, three metres high, and with walls five metres long. The cube, created by LED rope lights, faced diagonally out towards the audience, but with one and a half sides missing. The room floor three or four cms off the main floor, but this allowed for an illuminated edge. In the corner of the room was a drum kit.

Lighting designer, Phoebe Pilcher, has fill in spots and floods, to complement the rope lamps. The lamps were normally set at bright yellow, but they changed to pink, and as the play’s action became more intense, to a blue. Picking out the lift door was a clever idea.

Sound designer, Isaac Diamond has proved his theatre skills as a competent sound designer several times. The live drum music is most impressive. The show was stage managed by Charley Newton.

 

       About to enter his block of flats, a stylish looking young man, Cam (Campbell Pollock) sees a tousled busker, Finn (Isaac Diamond) in the street. He flatters the poverty-stricken lad, telling him how handsome he is, and how with such a talent he could become famous. He invites the busker to meet his friend and guru in the top floor penthouse.

       The couple go up in the lift (good effect) to the luxurious penthouse with its 360-degree view of the city. Cam shows Finn his drum kit, only to find the busker is more proficient. The flat’s daggy, eccentric owner, a weird millionaire, Griffin (Haydon Wilson) appears dressed in black, wearing under length trousers, pulled up high, to reveal his sandals and socks.

        ‘So this is how the rich lives’ ponders Finn.

        The bored, cold-hearted owner gives Finn an insincere welcoming hug, before making the poor busker an offer he could not refuse.

Director, Mitchell Whelan has produced a raw and chilling piece of entertainment. The perfectly delivered, acerbic dialogue is really unsettling. The audience are forced to watch -rigid – as Finn goes through Hell.

Isaac’s performance was convincing, well observed and I am sure should be nominated for an acting award. He was strongly supported by Haydon and Campbell as the greedy, jealous pair with weird fantasies.

Producers, Mitchell Whelan and Erin Lockyer have taken a big bold step in presenting this play, but that is why the Blue Room exists, it is there to give companies and audience members a chance to experience new and exciting works. Well done.

I have deliberately missed some of the script’s major topics in this review, so that the tension and the unique experience will not be spoiled. A very tough show to watch, but undoubtedly an admirable piece of theatre.