The Hero Leaves One Tooth - KXT Broadway (NSW)
Directed by Cam Turnbull. Presented by Ratcatch Theatre.
Reviewed by Kate Gaul
KXT Broadway, Ultimo
Until 29th July, 2023
This show contains references to sexual assault, and stylised depictions of sexual violence. For professional support, 24 hour help is available through 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
- Where to begin with this new and unique production? A stellar piece of independent theatre that is weird and wonderful in the best way -
The Hero Leaves One Tooth is a premiere new play by Erica J Brennan and produced by Ratcatch Theatre. Where to begin? Vaginas with teeth. Body anxiety and body autonomy. In the words of the director Cam Turnbull, “this play erupts a visceral response to a culture of sexual violence, as bodies transform into protective weapons, and folklore monster all in one”. The playwright imagines a world where vaginas can bite back. It sounds scary and even a bit of a turn off but this elegant production – with its fake blood, and orthodontics – was quite thrilling, entertaining, and very tasteful!
The play begins evocatively and mysteriously with a beautifully dressed woman, Neeve, being followed at night. In a second scene it’s clear there has been an assault. Next a band of men take to the stage and play – live - one of the three original songs in the piece (Lyrics and music by Jake Neilson, Music Director Alexander Lee-Rekers, Arranger Zac Saric). The subversion of style is electrifying; the music is alluring; the light and confident touch in the direction here is very satisfying. The other original renderings are just as potent, vocalised-into-mic by character Kadi, and a vintage record player delivers a suitable song entitled “Once Bitten” in the closing (hopeful?) moments of the play. In the middle of all this we have a dinner party between friends, slide night and loads of seething attempted seduction.
Images by Clare Hawley
Brennan’s snappy dialogue is a gift and her wry interrogation of the traditional staple of drawing room theatre – the dinner party – had me quietly chuckling all night. CamTurnbull has assembled an outstanding team. It was a smart move for a new play and this company to work with experienced dramaturg (amongst a long list of accomplishments) Joanna Erskine. Production design by recent NIDA grad Meg Anderson gives a brand-new spin on the KXT space with two porticos either side of the traverse which create entrances and exits; the semblance of a “realistic” room, and surfaces on which to project both video design and the all-important vintage slides. The room is obviously set for a dinner party but it’s all wonky – I loved this for its very clever, smart interpretation of this off-beat play. Video design by David Malloy is seamlessly integrated into the overall design and vibe of the show. Some of the images are unsettling, but the images are just mouths, right? Context is everything. Jasmin Borsovsky (Lighting Designer) again produces outstanding work with her welcome attention to detail, whilst Saric supports the atmospherics of the play with sinister sound scape.
Brennan creates characters with real dimension and opportunities for the cast to shine. MichaelMcstay as Felix, the dinner-party host and recently returned traveller, is a formidable actor. Whether it’s Felix’s up tight insistence that all ‘phones be turned off’, his passion for sharing his travel slides, or his mostly unexplained relationship with best-friend Gem, Mcstay excels in the nuances of both the humour and drama. Felix’s girlfriend Neeve is played with an unsettling stillness by Kira-Che Heelan. There’s a fire burning inside this character; it’s scary watching but we can’t look away. Cara Whitehouse impresses as the gender-fluid long time friend of Felix, Kadi, who is also a dentist of sorts. Kadi arrives with Gem who is perhaps an ex-lover of Felix. TomRodgers wins us over with his pre-dinner party red wine pre-load. He’s funny but there is much at stake for this character, and we believe it! Sasha – a friend of both Felix and Neeve – who is not Russian although she insists she is – is bought to life by comedian Claudia Shnier. She is super funny but there’s no darkness without light, right? Some offstage hanky-panky with Mark (Neeve’s ex-boyfriend) yields some startling realisations. Mark is played by a solid David Woodland proving his versatility yet again on the indie scene. Sasha brings an unexpected guest, Benito, played by newcomer Patricio Ibarra, a talent to watch. Who is the hero and where was the tooth? That would be telling!
The Hero Leaves One Tooth is one of the strongest productions I’ve seen at KXT. The play, the team, the company - this is a rave! Go see it.
CAST & CREATIVES
Directed by Cam Turnbull
with Kira-Che Heelan, Michael McStay, Tom Rodgers, Cara Whitehouse, Claudia Shnier, Patricio Ibarra and David Woodland
Produced by Alexander Lee-Rekers, Erica J. Brennan and Cam Turnbull
Playwright Erica J. Brennan
Lyricist and Composer Jake Nielsen
Music Director Alexander Lee-Rekers
Production Design Meg Anderson
Lighting Design Jasmin Borsovszky
Sound Designer, Composer, Arranger Zac Saric
Video Design David Molloy
Dramaturg Joanna Erskine
Intimacy Co-ordinator Shy Magsalin
Stage Manager Grace Sackman
Assistant Director Tahlia Merlino