Hello, Gaz Rhumbo! (Lightning Bolt Creative
January 22 – 31
“When Gaz dies, he’s forced to reflect on how he lived in order to find a place to rest” … this is the description of “Hello, Gaz Rhumbo!” an absurdist scramble through life, love and death in modern Australia, written and starting Willem Whitfield. The journey play starts in a frenzy, moving us quickly though the protagonist’s formative years towards his promised contemplation. It’s a fast-paced fill of humour from characterisations, dialogue and the addition of funny man Seinfeld skit allusions. Cue card directions for limited audience participation and prop heaviness add to the busyness. So despite the play’s minimalist approach to depiction of action, it’s a challenging orientation to what is an ultimately a multi-styled production.
Gaz, it is soon revealed is just ordinary person, with some issues arising from his relationships. And as things settle into his early adulthood story there is contemplation of some big questions about the nature and cost of happiness, as well as about life and what follows. Whitfield does an admirable job of carrying things and his chemistry with primary love Phoebe (Marisa Bucolo) fuels proceedings. Tenielle Plunkett tears in as more aggressive girlfriend Stacey, while Britainy London shows commitment to the animated role of Gaz’s always talking but rarely listening mother. From the supporting cast of multiple-role performers, Brenton Smith also impresses in his limited stage appearances, never missing a beat in his deadpan and consequently very funny delivery.
“Hello, Gaz Rhumbo!” is a new work of much potential probably easily realised in a more versatile space. The production does its best with BackDock art’s small stage area, but its realisation with such a large cast makes things seem unnecessarily claustrophobic, especially in early scenes. Its hectic, energetic Act One is also difficult to connect with due to its limited pauses to hold moments before transitions, depriving audience members opportunities to register and appreciate the full extent of its humour.
Stylistically, the absurdist Act One is very different from later sections of realism and post modernism and things are flipped after intermission in terms of pacing as its realisation quietens to just Gaz and Phoebe in couple interaction and then Gaz venturing into an afterlife conversation with Arsehole, a big character, effectively realised in a stylised performance from Virginia Gray that encapsulates the crazy while still allowing space for sensitive notes. While this is one of the show’s highlights, it’s distance from the work’s earlier sensibility muddies the clarity of overall identity, meaning that a less-is-maybe-more editing eye can could be applied, while still allowing for its unique story to be told in an exciting way.
There is no doubting that “Hello, Gaz Rhumbo!” is based on a clever idea that allows audiences to think about love and mortality for themselves rather than be constantly instructed by heavy-handed direction. In amongst its nudity, sex scenes and coarse language, character presentation of the truths behind our facades is an effective technique to lead the audience to appreciation of the role of intimacy in real understanding and consideration of how talk does not necessarily equate to communication… things which eventually resonate beyond the ready rhumble of its black comedy and physical theatre.