First Published: 11/10/07
Wharf2Loud is hosting a double dose of plays from the bizarre and beguiling mind of Melbourne based playwright Lally Katz. Known for her absurdist and refreshingly self-referential explorations into unique and disturbing parallel universes, Waikiki Hip does not disappoint.

Firstly we are emersed in Waikiki Palace:  a “liquid candy” shot of holiday love through the eyes of Prairie, a thirty-something-year-old who has escaped the cruel indifference of her “sonofabitch ‘usband” and has tumbled into the arms of a much younger man.

Pippa Grandison is a strong yet dreamy “Prairie” who is destined to fall in love with “men who do not love her”. In her attempt to emulate a scene in the film “Punch Drunk Love”, she makes grand plans for her last night on Waikiki with Jack (Luke Ryan) to be as magical and romantic as she dreams until a chance encounter with a post-coital couple  Clay (Ben Adam) and  Eve (Sophie Ross) alters the course of her evening.

Peppered with quirky little ditties and moments of conversational naturalism; the fickleness of love, transience of sex and echoing after effects of the connections made on holidays, reverberate through the landscape of Waikiki.

Ben Adam is a comfortably swaggering “Clay” endowed with a heavy southern style accent who is beautifully complimented by Sophie Ross as the awkward co-student/18 year old part-time stripper, “Eve”. A stand out performance from Grandison as she slinks her way through the basic conversations with charm and sensuality.

The second half of the evening is Hip Hip Hooray. The previously veiled set in Waikiki Hip is revealed to show a stylised and cubist set by designer Halycyon Pratt, which is as bright as a playschool episode and complete with an birthday- cake-bearing “Apocalyse Bear”. It is in this play that they bravery and excitement of the Katz/Kohn partnership screams out into the audience.

Ben Adam plays Wilbur, quadriplegic husband of Stepford -wife Alice (Grandison), who welcome a geriatric Pakistani squash champion (Luke Ryan) and his “much younger” girlfriend Catta (Sophie Ross) over for dinner. This piece, though splattered with witty and interesting dialogue and dilemmas involving all manner of appropriate behaviour, is devastating. This brilliantly executed piece is a great testament to the performers ability to commit to the challenges Katz weaves through her scripts. Sophie Ross is particularly heart wrenching and fascinating as a Catta and Luke Ryans’ boundless energy and vivacity and mesmerizing performance as Hashim keeps the see-saw of hilarity/confusion and inexorable heartbreak evenly balanced.

Hip Hip Hooray employs the very best of Luiz Papolha paints light into each scene making time and place expand and contract with great ease and effectiveness. Digital images by Scott Otto Anderson are both functional and artistic and are used in great effectiveness in Hip Hip Hooray, though only subtly and sparingly incorporated in Waikiki Palace. Jethro Woodward’s underscoring of both pieces is powerfully tense and a perfect synergy with Chris Kohn’s direction.

At the heart of what could be experienced as a kitsch romp into popular culture, vacuous conversation and selfish preoccupations with shoes, success and fame is a very real and tender centre about love, aging and expectation. Katz seems to throw back the simple intricacies of conversation and awkward interactions with a cartoonish quality. Yet, what is most disturbing of all is the under current of suffering which penetrates the smiling babbling awkward folk.  This is contemporary writing at its most vivid and Chris Kohn handles the direction with courage and humour.

This is an exciting and visceral evening of theatre and an important inclusion in the Wharf2Loud’s program as the step up into production from the 2006 Push season rehearsed readings in which Waikiki Palace was first presented.