The Histrionic is a deliciously devilish spin on the inner (and outer) most thoughts of every uber-egotistical actor to date. Served with generous lashings of frittata soup and performed to a tea by headliner Billie Brown, the Malthouse/Sydney Theatre Company collaboration will have the dullest of theatregoers giggling like Japanese schoolgirls.
Set solely in the inn of a rustic Austrian town named Utzbach, with a pigsty and numerous mentions of blood sausage to boot, actor Bruscon (Brown) struggles to patch together a workable performance of his ‘worldly masterpiece’, The Wheel of History.
Brown’s performance as self-indulgent Bruscon is exaggerated perfection, ringing true for an eccentric playwright who declares himself the greatest in “the history of the world.” Bruscon consistently critiques his family’s acting abilities and nitpicks at his wife’s ailing predicament (she’s allergic to the smell of pigs), drawing a fine line between narcissism and his misogynistic fanfare. Through and through, his brash personality is complimented with the supporting cast’s fine accompaniment.
Barry Otto sidelines as the twitching, terror-filled innkeeper, aiming to please his tempestuous guest. His performance was enriched by his wife and daughter’s humorous country-bumpkin background shenanigans, yet the entire play succumbs to Brown’s hedonistic, attention-grabbing monologues – a guilty eye-opening, hate-filling pleasure for all.
Writer Thomas Bernhard innocently criticises his Alpine motherland with insults ranging from a light-hearted attack of Austria’s ignorant infatuation with Hitler to the lack of culinary delights. Marg Horwell’s set design and Daniel Schlusser’s directorial skills shine through in the effectiveness of staging rampant familial chaos.
Tickets are well worth the student-friendly price tag. So save up the moolah for a cultural night on the town and rather than those extra puke-inducing vodka shots, consider a pre-performance cocktail at the Wharf Bar. Because we all enjoy being that little bit classy.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
By Ryan Auberson-Walsh
This review was first published online at the Vertigo Magazine website.