21 April 2010

Review: The Grenade

The Grenade
Melbourne Theatre Company
15 April 2010
Playhouse, the Arts Centre

What does a wealthy middle class family do when a grenade appears in their open plan living space? Luckily, the dad is a lobbyist who specialises in crisis management and it turns out to be more of a metaphorical grenade that ignites deeper fears about family love and security being in danger. If The Grenade were an episode of Packed to the Rafters, it’d rate through the roof.
Tony McNamara’s work is about fear, especially the fears invented by the comfortable middle class. We read forwarded emails about plastic water bottles causing breast cancer, but don’t think twice about the impact of driving to the supermarket to buy water in a bottle.  The easier our lives, the more we worry. 

The script is shaped to perfection, filled with tippity-top wit ("Broken eggs: you've raped chickens"), winning crowd pleasers ("Hi, I'm Randy") and a plot that jogs along like an Olympic pace setter. McNamara's original characters are plucked from the southern bank of the Yarra and have funny names like Busby (who is nothing like Berkely) and Wheat (who favours an "Abe Lincoln meets Gatsby" look). There's even a hot ex-nun who is writing a romantic erotic novel with a muscle-bound spunk called Randy, a sardonic and judgmental baby who may be evil and a teenage girl who wants to lose her virginity.

And with a cast like Garry McDonald and Mitchell Butel, giggles are unavoidable...and these are all the sort of things we say when we were bored.

The MTC rightly love a good play that it's subscribers can relate to. The Grenade is bit like a Melbourne God Of Carnage (by Yasmina Reza) from their 2009 program, and they share director Peter Evans. Both are about the same tribe, set in an expensive apartment and have jokes about posh imported food. But where God of Carnage laughed with "us", The Grenade is laughing at "them" with humour that is is approaching (but not reaching) parody. By putting a mocking wedge between the audience and the stage, it feels unauthentic (a stainless steel fridge does not equal authenticity) and misses the opportunity for the audience to attach emotionally and feel anything for this family.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

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