VIVID WHITE - MELBOURNE
VIVID WHITE, Melbourne Theatre Company at Southbank Theatre the Sumner, 18 November-23 December 2017. Photography by Jeff Busby: above - Christina O’Neill, Brent Hill, Ben Mingay and Verity Hunt-Ballard; below - Brent Hill, Gillian Cosgriff, Virginia Gay, Keegan Joyce and Ben Mingay
Written by Eddie Perfect, the pin-up boy for audiences who love satire and irreverence, Vivid White throws two couples into battle with each other. In their younger, wilder days, they made it “big” on the Edinburgh Fringe circuit in their band Random Axe of Kindness; then, like most, went their separate ways. Evan (Ben Mingay), to reality show stardom and production company director with his upwardly mobile producer wife Cynthia (Christian O’Neill); the other two – Liz (Verity Hunt-Ballard) and her husband Ben (Brent Hill) – to an idealistic, hand-to-mouth existence still playing the fringe and whining about their lot in life.
Liz hankers to own her own home and has her heart set on a house in Fitzroy only to find their old friend made good with lots of money wants to buy the same place. Liz persuades her less than enthusiastic husband to meet with Evan and tell him they want and need it more than he does. The plea for help falls on deaf ears. And that sums up the narrative; and believe it or not, it’s a musical.
The first act was a laugh a minute with high octane performances – some too much so. I wasn’t sure how it was going to warrant a second act. I think we had the gist: the high end of life versus the plebs who shouldn’t be in the inner city anymore. A chorus of The Red Flag wouldn’t have been out of place.
There are some catchy numbers and a lament about putting out the bins. Also a dig at inner city dwellers and their penchant for rescue dogs – nothing and no one is safe. The second act moves into the surreal with a giant cephalopod named Guus (voiced by Virginia Gay) that kills anything in its sights. And not just renters as it appears to take revenge on having been forced out billions of years ago. The second act is seemingly tacked on and I found myself muttering – “it needs a dramaturg and a couple of goes to shape it.”
To their credit the performers are strong both in timing and vocally and equally adept playing the (many) instruments. Director Dean Bryant does his level best to keep it all trucking along. Keegan Joyce as Martin and Harvey, has a gentle quality and good vocals to counterbalance his high-octane colleagues. Gillian Cosgriff has the best fun with a handful of characters. As the renters Liz and Ben, Brent Hill and Verity Hunt-Ballard are cute and funny and believable in an unbelievable setting. Ben Mingay milks as many lines as he can of as much as he can and Virginia Gay works a little too hard as the ball breaking realtor. As the voice of Guus she is brilliant however, and well done on singing a ballad from inside the giant squid costume – danger money springs to mind.
The set (Owen Phillips) and costume (Tim Chappel) take it from street satire to a commercial vibe with lots of colour and movement. Bomber jackets for the band are ripped off to reveal their characters, all colour coordinated. The lighting (Ross Graham) adds even more colour and contrast. A great collaboration of creatives. I liked the set, the staging and the lighting.
An interesting choice for the MTC. Its appeal will be with Perfect’s devotees.