Sunday, May 31, 2015

Theatre: Horsehead (★★★)

Longley is the tall one (not horse)
Written and directed by Damon Lockwood
Performed by Damon Lockwood and Sam Longley
Independent Theatre Festival
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
Until June 6  

The trick with a great idea is knowing how far you can take it. In Horsehead, the writer, director and performer Damon Lockwood had the first, and gets the second, and the result is a proposition that’s impossible to resist – or words to that effect.
Lockwood’s great idea is like Tom Stoppard’s in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; take two minor characters from a great work and flesh them out, see their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in the mighty drama sweeping past them from the inside looking out.
It’s a device that’s driven some eminent artistic ideas: it’s the theme of WH Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts, and Breugal’s The Fall of Icarus that inspired it. It’s a recurring undercurrent in T.S Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
But that’s all way too hifalutin’, which is something you could never accuse Horsehead of.

Its characters don’t even appear in the book and film that made them famous, although you’ll never forget their handiwork. They’re the guys who put the head of the prize horse in the bed of the Hollywood producer in The Godfather. Yeah, those guys.
Philippo Fonzie (Sam Longley) is trying to break into the gangster caper, and after he lucks out in his trial run by saving the life of the bookie he’s been sent to strongarm and getting a tip on top of recovering the money he owes, the Family give him a trickier assignment – one that’s going to need an accomplice.
Enter his brother Eddie (Lockwood), back from Hollywood after a failed attempt to break into the movies (surprise, surprise, the Corleones aren’t the only ones with a bone to pick with the producer).
The rest – no surprise here either – is mirth.
And plenty of it. The lofty Longley and lugubrious Lockwood are a seamless comedy duo, and their experience in improvisation (they are key players in the long-running Big Hoo Ha improv troupe) helps them keep even their show’s glibbest material fresh and spontaneous.
Horsehead doesn’t attempt more than it can carry or, at around 45 minutes, risk overstaying its welcome. It mightn’t be much more than an elongated skit, but it’s a good one.

This review appeared in The West Australian 6.6.15     

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