New Theatre: Piranha Heights

We open on a rundown council flat in London. Alan(Heath Wilder) is fussing about the place when his brother Terry (Jason Langley) stumbles through the door seemingly unannounced and smashed off his head. Inexplicably he’s brought a young girl with him, Lily(Emma Griffin) who’s hidden beneath a traditional Muslim hijab. Terry’s brought flowers, or at least a bunch of stems, in honour of Mother’s Day. Except dear old mum is dead.It’s a simple enough set up, we could be watching The Billor Eastenders; it feels safe, almost staid. But it’s all a cunning ruse created by clever UK playwright Philip Ridley (The Pitchfork Disney) so that when Lily’s psycho boyfriend Medic (Matthew Hyde) and Alan’s wayward son Garth (Brynn Loosemore) turn up he can hijack our expectations and assumptions and take us on a wild ride to destination Unknown.

Piranha Heights is full of revelations, surprises and, when Medic and Garth crash in, the kind of frenetic, crazy adrenaline-charged energy that makes for dynamite theatre. What starts as an emotional family drama: two brothers arguing over the title deed to their dead mum’s apartment quickly careens into something akin to a Tarantino movie on acid as Medic and Garth start to bond over a shared penchant for a bit of the ultra violence. It’s an incisive exploration of what happens when two unstable personalities, each just holding it together on their own combine; what happens when Nitro meets Glycerine or when one piranha meets his flesh-eating soulmate.

Matthew Hyde is mesmerising as Medic, a dangerous, pumped up speed-fuelled dreamer who longs for his and Lily’s baby son Bubba (a plastic doll) to build a time machine so they can go back and find out what really happened to Elvis. Brynn Loosemore is equally engaging and more than just a little bit twisted as the tormented teen Garth. He’s the kind of kid who makes Damien from The Omen look really well adjusted.

Jason Langley is sympathetic and assured as the do-gooder brother who unwittingly brings Medic and Garthtogether, while Heath Wilder lends strong, solid support as Alan, helping to firmly balance the juxtaposition of the real and surreal in this exciting and energetic production from talented director Fiona Hallenan-Barker.

In a local theatre scene that’s been a bit hit and miss of late, this darkly funny, outrageously perverse and yet strangely endearing comedy is a definite must-see on the independent hit list for those who like to take their theatre laced with a dash of “KA BOOM”.

Shedding Skin and The Spare Room presents
PIRANHA HEIGHTS
by Philip Ridley

Director Fiona Hallenan-Barker

Venue: New Theatre | 542 King St, Newtown
Dates: 16 June – 2 July 2011
Times: Tues – Sat @ 8pm, Sunday @ 5pm
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $25
Bookings: 1300 306 776 | www.mca-tix.com.au

This review first appeared on Australian Stage June 2011

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