REVIEW: On The Production of Monsters | Lawler Studio, Melbourne
Some might argue that child pornography is not a suitable topic for a comedy. That argument is by the by, as Robert Reid’s play On the Production of Monsters uses the accidental forwarding of an image of a naked girl only as an inciting incident that allows the play to riff on a whole litany of zeitgeisty phenomena.
Like any successful comedy, Reid’s play takes aim at its targets from a self-awareness of its own position. The play makes fun of the topics that pepper the lives of young Melburnians while at the same time honouring them with affectionate attention. It sharply skewers its characters, and in turn its own audience, but knows not to cut too deep.
Ben (James Saunders) and Shari (Virginia Gay) are bright young things who like to hipster-spot, ironically unaware that they themselves are just as hipster as their targets. As the unfortunate email sets off a chain of events that spirals out of their control, the existing pressures in their relationship start to build.
Saunders and Gay play all the roles with flair, bringing a battery of comic talents to drive the comedy but skating across the darker implications of the text.
The production is fast and funny, consistently staying half a step ahead of the audience as the narrative skips forward through multiple locations, the actors switching characters with careless dexterity.
Director Clare Watson keenly focuses on the central relationship between Ben and Shari, keeping the characters true even as the plot strays into more implausible territory.
Across the delightfully ingenious traverse stage (an excellent set by Andrew Bailey), the audience laughs both with and at the characters. It’s a slick production, briskly paced and stylishly supported by Kelly Ryall’s upbeat music and Richard Vabre’s crisp lighting.
It’s a rare treat to see a new local work so finely polished with such attention to detail. On the Production of Monsters does exactly what good comedy should do: make you wince with recognition while laughing at the absurdity of it all. The play has only a short season at Melbourne Theatre Company’s Lawler Studio, so book right now.
The details: On the Production of Monsters is in the Lawler Studio at the Melbourne Theatre Company until June 9. Tickets on the company website.