Written by Sydney-based Rick Viede, A Hoax won the Griffin award in 2011, and now Griffin Theatre have collaborated with La Boite Theatre to present the World Premiere of A Hoax.
The concept behind this provoking four-hander play about a fabricated story written under a fake pseudonym was inspired by real literary hoaxes, and more specifically, the misery memoir (the fake auto-biography).
A Hoax delves into four people’s entwining lives, exploring social and cultural identity, exploitation and politics, media sensationalism, gender, age, and sexuality in a strategic scramble for success. A white male social worker, Anthony Dooley (played by Glenn Hazeldine), has assumed the nom de plume of Currah, an abused aboriginal woman, for his misery memoir ‘Nobody’s Girl’. He employs Miri Smith (played by Shari Sebbens) to assume this role in order to garnish a publishing deal. Along the way the lines of perception and reality become blurred, and as the ruthless literary agent Ronnie Lowe (Sally McKenzie) and her flamboyant assistant Tyrelle Parks (Charles Allen) become more involved with the memoirs success, the web of deceit becomes so entangled that there is no point of return and they all find they are no longer in Kansas anymore.
The sparse, stark white set design by Renee Mulder depicts a hotel room, where the characters first meet. The ebb and flow of Anthony’s (sorry Ant’s) success as a writer is commented on throughout the play by a projected backdrop of hotel rooms of varying quality. It also displays the passing of time with each episode being ‘a year later’.
Steve Toulmin’s AV and sound design with Jason Glenwright‘s lighting is efficient, effective and subtly executed.
This is not a fluff story, but it is funny. With such confronting material, playwright Rick Viede and Director Lee Lewis have managed to present some bold and possibly uncomfortable moments as palatable through the convention of comedy. And all the actors are seriously funny (apart from Ant who is not amused at all). All characters were fully developed and it is only after over-analysing the piece does one question whether the characters were too … characterised.
Glenn Hazeldine as Ant is fascinating as the struggling artist-come-Geppetto who created ‘Currah’. His merry-go-round journey from puppet master to pawn made an interesting character hosting a gamut of emotions, from cool and in control to explosive — a theme running through all the seemingly in control characters of the play.
Shari Sebbens as Miri/Currah is superb in the rags to riches story, and showed a depth of range that was mesmerising to watch as she convincingly played two contrasting characters with a path that juxtaposed the other characters.
Sally McKenzie, played the questionable successful literary agent with vigour and relentless determination, like a bulldog with a bone. She commanded the stage and her witty one-liners hit the target with laser precision.
Charles Allen as the camp African-American drag queen, Tyrelle was just delightful. The bold text this character has been given was both challenging and cheeky and possibly one of the few characters on the Australian stage that could get away with saying such words. However, the unwritten cavern that he had to cross so quickly at the climax of the play was a little hard to leap as an audience member.
A wonderful piece of writing and excellently produced by La Boite and Griffin Theatre, this world premiere production is one play not to be missed by the ardent theatre goer, but you better book your tickets now as it is a limited season. La Boite Theatre has graciously cancelled four performances so Sebbens can join her co-stars on the Cannes Red Carpet for the Premiere of Australian film The Sapphires.
A Hoax by Rick Viede is an important work of our time and a certainty for high school text books in days to come.