Review: Lé Nør [The Rain], The Last Great Hunt, Perth Festival

The Last Great Hunt unite their diverse skills and passions in a larger than life celebration of arthouse cinema, filmed and performed live in the theatre.
Review: Lé Nør [The Rain], The Last Great Hunt, Perth Festival

Arielle Gray in The Last Great Hunt's Lé Nør [The Rain]. Credit: Daniel Grant Photographer.

***

Scene: a theatre. Unusually, a cinema screen hangs centre stage. Actors in bad wigs fuss with cameras and props, their muttered words less intelligible than we might expect given the relatively intimate setting.

Cue music.

‘Fringe World crowds cry out in the night,
As they grow restless, longing for some indie theatre company…’

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No, wait, that’s Toto’s ‘Africa’. Kind of.

Sorry.

Hang on a sec.

I know the right song is on my almost obsolete early-Noughties iPod somewhere. Just bear with me. And please ignore the grinding of the stage manager's jaws.

‘How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave?
‘Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain,
And even shared the tears,
You're the only one who really knew me at all,
So take a look at me now…’

Ah yes. That’s the song I wanted. Phil Collins’ 'Against All Odds'. Played on repeat in Lé Nør [The Rain] by the heartsick Suzette (Jo Morris), so often and so loudly that her desperate party animal neighbours, Petri (Chris Isaacs) and Tobe (Jeffrey Jay Fowler) call the police to complain.

Before long, external pressures, including a severe drought, see Petri and Tobe’s friendship tragically decay. Simultaneously, other relationships in their apartment block deepen – such as the attraction between the cactus-loving Soren (Adriane Daff) and goldfish-fancier Eliza (Arielle Gray) – though the increasing water shortage puts pressure on them all.

But why ‘Against the Odds’ by Phil Collins? Because something is rotten in the island-state of Sólset and happy endings are as unlikely as a flood that rises higher than an entire apartment building.

Actually, hold that thought. Now superimpose another thought over it. And visualise it. Think early Eighties film clip. Overlapping images. Multiple perspectives viewed simultaneously – as if you were watching a film and watching its cast and crew creating the film at the same time.

Now, where were we? Ah yes.

It’s not that something is rotten in the state of Sólset. Something is absent. Missing. As is a coherent structure for this review.

Please bear with us. Ignore the floodwaters lapping at your window, achieved by holding a small, water-filled picture frame in front of a cardboard apartment building and filming through it.

We’re clearly experiencing technical difficulties. Normal service will resume as soon as possible. 

The Last Great Hunt's Lé Nør [the rain]. Pictured: Jeffrey Jay Fowler. Photos by Daniel Grant Photographer.

The latest production from Perth theatre company The Last Great Hunt is an ambitious, multi-layered production; a self-aware, homemade arthouse film set in drought-stricken Sólset, located somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Filmed live before its audience, the production allows audiences to watch Lé Nør [The Rain] on a large screen in the PICA performance space while simultaneously watching the members of The Last Great Hunt perform and film the production.

The play’s Eighties aesthetic – all big hair and blue eye shadow – contrasts beautifully with the use of contemporary technology. Nods to film and television productions of the past are clearly apparent – such as several scenes set in a local phone booth, which seemingly reference the West and Ward era of Batman as well as Cronenberg’s The Fly, as Suzette climbs around the booth’s walls and ceiling independent of gravity.

Throughout the production, director Tim Watts intrudes and comments on proceedings, sometimes seen by the characters, sometimes unobserved – part narrator, part psychopomp.

If he ever turns up at one of your parties, run for the hills. The highest local hill you can find.  

Throughout Lé Nør the cast speak in gibberish (‘think Icelandic meets Russian meets French-ish’ the program notes observe) with subtitles translating the dialogue on screen. Deliberately bargain-basement special effects – such as the appearance of a toy helicopter in one pivotal scene – alternate with moments of genuine inventiveness, such as handfuls of dust used to suggest flying sweat during a slow-motion boxing sequence.  

Similarly, while much of the plot is played for laughs, moments of emotional truth are played entirely seriously, even while framed though an Eighties lens. The resulting production is silly but serious, heartfelt yet hilarious, and engaging at every turn.

On the night this writer attended, technical difficulties derailed the production at several points, but the cast persevered regardless, losing focus only briefly before recommitting to the elaborate fiction unfolding on stage and screen before us.

The most ambitious work created by The Last Great Hunt to date, Lé Nør is memorable for being a production which weaves the diverse aesthetics and interests of the company’s founding artists – props and handheld lighting, text-based drama, committed performances and a palpable sense of play – into a rich, unified whole. Compared to earlier works such as Old Love, Fag/Stag, Monroe & Associates and the more recent Bali, it bodes well for the company’s future – especially if their creative capacity should be appropriately funded.  

In the language of Sólset, Lé Nør [The Rain] is lękker (awesome). It absolutely should be picked up by other festivals – if only so I can see it again without the computer crashing and the actors’ microphones constantly cutting out, but also so that audiences in other states can experience the inventive ambitions and commitment of one of Perth's leading theatre companies.

Sólsêt pórálltáf! (Sólset forever!)

4 stars

Lé Nør (The Rain)
The Last Great Hunt
Presented in association with Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
A Perth Festival Co-Commission
Co-Creator, Performer & Director: Tim Watts
Co-Creator & Performer: Adriane Daff
Co-Creator & Performer: Arielle Gray
Co-Creator & Performer: Chris Isaacs
Performers Gita Bezard, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Jo Morris
Associate Director: Matt Egerton
Sound Designer & Composer: Ben Collins
Set & Gadget Designer: Anthony Watts
Art Director & Stylist: Caitri Jones
Production Manager: Michael Maclean
Stage Manager: Clare Testoni
Assistant Stage Manager: Kristie Smith

PICA Performance Space, Northbridge
13-24 February 2019

Additional performances:
Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
28 February - 2 March 2019

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's Committee of Management and on the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel.

He is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Twitter: @richardthewatts