A Behanding in Spokane

A Behanding in Spokane
By Martin McDonagh. Melbourne Theatre Company. Sumner Theatre. 5 February to 19 March.

The first night audience received A Behanding in Spokane, with enthusiasm - a funny, lively and unsettling contemporary ‘black revenge comedy’ or present-day (American) comedy of manners for four actors.

Peter Evans directs another play set in a hotel. In contrast to the marvellous realist design of a hotel lobby by Dale Ferguson for My Life without Me, Christina Smith’s set is a grungy, dingy, cheap hotel room contained by crimson velvet curtains. Painted behind the bed is a mural of a vast Northwest American landscape that suggests the location, and the curtains infer more than a dash of Grand Guignol. In all ways, the set supports the story and the actors.

This funny dark work is full of twists, turns and surprises, and is, in some ways, reminiscent of the television series Breaking Bad and Dexter.

It commences at a measured pace but at times takes on the tempo of a manic romp. The brooding and intimidating Carmichael (Colin Moody), who is in search of a lost hand, dominates proceedings. Moody plays the psychotic Carmichael as a laconic, sad man who takes himself very seriously. All characters are complex, edgy and display fascinating character flaws or inadequacies that can be associated with our modern age. All seem to be working hard to deal with their baggage, which, in some cases, is perhaps a fabrication of their own imaginings.

Somehow, despite or because of their glaring inadequacies, these individuals are endearing.  Tyler Coppin’s fleshing out of the character Mervyn is just delightful. He has put some quirky and surprising finishing touches to an emotionally immature yet courageously confrontational ‘little’ middle age man. Then there is the dishonest, cowardly and self-serving Toby (Bert Labonte) who is the perfect foil for the not too bright yet acutely self-righteous Marilyn (Nicole da Silva), his girlfriend. These two interact under the threat of losing their lives, only to expose themselves and each other as all too ridiculously human.

Behanding in Spokane is an intriguing and beautifully crafted, thematic and rhythmic piece of writing, in the hands of four engaging actors, that can only improve and become even more joyfully entertaining throughout its run.

Suzanne Sandow

Images. Top (L to R) – Nicole Da Silva, Bert Labonté and lower Bert Labonté, Colin Moody and Nicole Da Silva. Photographer: Jeff Busby

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