Theatre Works and Hot Mess Productions’ 80 Minutes No Interval was a feast of sensory delight and surprises. Debuting in 2015, this darkly comic tale written and directed by WAAPA graduate Travis Cotton saw him return to this revival in the lead role of Louis, guiding us through an exact 80 minute journey through his life from failed novelist and try hard theatre reviewer to convicted felon.
Cotton’s writing is clever and acerbic, his staging stark, swift and adaptable – allowing an easy flow to each new setting with simple set pieces, and an eclectic soundtrack. Beginning with the typical marriage proposal in a restaurant scenario, things get funny fast when Louis (Cotton) struggles to order and the waiter (Tom O’Sullivan) tries to warn him about proceeding with his plans as the exasperated Claire (Martelle Hammer) takes a breather in the toilets and eventually dumps him. The chemistry between the trio created the perfect opening ambience, hinting at a quirky edge to follow. Things go from bad to worse when Louis is sacked from his job as a theatre reviewer now that a bright shiny red box robot version has arrived to usurp him, followed closely by his parents kicking him out of their investment property. The theatre reviewer gags and send-up of pretentious art critics was hilariously well appreciated and later shrewdly connected to Louis’ mime re-enactment nightmare – complete with broken glass noise and an intentional long blackout. The kookiness dial is scaled up after a subsequent romantic dinner fails and leads into a twisted publisher meeting that sees our luckless protagonist jailed for manslaughter. The explosion of floral walled colour for the final vignette was perfectly in keeping with the fashion of this unexpected narrative.
Styles converge in this highly original show with traditional dialogue exchanges being intersected with mime, clowning and Butoh inspired movement. These silent creative moments showcased the team’s full range and physical abilities with one of the funniest aesthetics being Louis’ unceremonious removal from his home by his parents. Less successful perhaps was the lead up to Louis being stripped and jailed which was a tad clumsy in execution. Cotton’s stylistic vision was well enhanced by John Collopy’s inventive lighting design whilst Hamish Michael’s soundscape varied in style and was all encompassing, creating links or intentionally unsettling preambles to the next prospect.
Cotton was completely charming, anchoring the play as the flawed and cursed hero. Thoroughly believable and likeable, his comic timing was subtly sharp and on point. Martelle Hammer as the girlfriend, mother and publisher PA showed subtle delineation between her roles, with tonal variety and pauses used to great humorist effect. Robin Goldsworthy’s versatility shone through as he ventured from theatre reviewer boss, then father, and finally as the bombastic and repugnant publisher Dan Kurtz. Goldworthy’s verbose self congratulatory and predatory twist powerfully grabbed the audience’s attention – and many laughs and gasps of horror. O’Sullivan’s calm and understated turn as the waiter contrasted well with his castmates – adding his own rhythm and effective joke bombs. And whilst Tamzen Hayes’ inclusion as Mathilde is short and sweet near the end, it is evidence of her promise as a budding physical comic actress given a bit more experience. Most notable was how fully committed the cast were to Cotton’s vision and styling. The synergy to embrace and deliver the witty dialogue and cracking pace conversations was impressive. The talent to keep each moment fast, fresh and fluid was exciting.
80 Minutes No Interval is a true indie theatre experience of a very different kind of love story. It is both thoroughly unpredictable and intriguing at the same time. It doesn’t allow passive response – it demands you to be fully alert and involved on this crazy rollercoaster journey. Addictively appealing, it is a great night out for those who like their humour and storytelling dark and delicious.
Images: James Terry