The Histrionic

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Some productions are group efforts, a mix of talents and strengths that make it greater than the sum of its parts. Others are monologues, relying on the skill and verve of the performer to bring a script to life and engage the audience. Then there are tour de force performances, where one actor’s ability (and admittedly, lines) transform a group production into what is essentially a monologue. The Histrionic is one such play.

Thomas Bernhard’s sizzling script about Bruscon, ‘the greatest actor of his generation’ plunged into a backwater village in the Swiss Alps is given a remarkable reworking at The Malthouse. Billie Brown is magnetic as the charismatic, narcissistic, sometimes cruel but never un-watchable Bruscon, the actor with the ego the size of a small planet who’s surrounded by mere mortals who don’t appreciate his tremendous talents (or demands).

The Histrionic’s stage direction of  by Marg Horwell is compelling – large sculptures of hands, carrots and wild beasts are moved about the stage as Brown holds court over a talented cast including Barry Otto and Kelly Butler. Director Daniel Schlusser allows Brown full flight exploring the excesses of Brescon, he struts, he squawks, he bullies, flatters, hams it up and struts again.

There are shades of Basil Fawlty in this performance, and Brown clearly enjoys every minute of his bravura performance and pithy one liners delivered in that rich baritone. Simply put, he’s magnetic and carries The Histrionic like Atlas.

This reviewer is not given to gushing, but occasionally a performance calls for gushing. Consider me gushing.

A must see.

The Histrionic runs until May 5 at The Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St Southbank.
For more information and tickets visit malthousetheatre.com.au.

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