By Jenny Scott
Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a play by its promo photos, and never underestimate the standover man! No one is who they seem in this grimly hilarious gangland tale, the latest production written and directed by Jessica Messenger, and presented by Perth Theatre Trust and Subiaco Arts Centre.
We’re introduced to the eponymous lead as he comes to collect from ‘the Kid’, a combative teen with something to prove. As he takes the Kid under his wing, trouble begins to brew in the murky underground world of crime and retribution. Meanwhile, a minor car crash brings together a single mum and a mild-mannered accountant with a secret side job. Intertwined are two slowly teased out tales of the little lost Verity, and the boy, the rock and the very old tree. And of course, there’s Joan of Arc herself.
The disparate narratives and unfurling monologues build momentum until all stories meet head-on in a tense and thrilling rumination on the consequences of the past colliding with the present. A sparse soundtrack and clever lighting immerse the audience in a world of shady dealings where the inner struggles of damaged people and the mundane realities of life on the edge are exposed.
Of special note is a scene-stealing performance by Nick Maclaine as the accountant and his palpable chemistry with Laura Hopwood’s single mother. Equally impressive is the physicality of Esther Longhurst as the Kid who delivers a great rendering of youthful macho posturing. Overlooking some first-night stutters, the capable performances of this production really impress, and encourage us to reflect upon the study of mannerisms necessary when embodying a character and making it seem easy.
Let’s not forget – this play is funny. The comic timing of the small cast ensures an entertaining delivery of the sharply written script, producing laugh out loud moments within an atmosphere of ominous anticipation – whether it’s the attitudinising of a wannabe crim, the awkwardly relatable banter of a first date, or a knowing nod to the audience from the standover man himself.
This gangland reverie was engrossing. I laughed, I sympathised, and I saw some people get punched in the face. Instead of watching your old standby Guy Ritchie film for the 20th time, why not let ‘The Standover Man’ be your gateway play to the dangerously addictive world of hard Perth theatre?
The Standover Man runs until March 29 as part of the ongoing Independent Theatre Festival.