With plenty of Brisbane in-jokes, witty commentary on the theatre scene and a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of strip clubs, Paul Osuch’s The Big Hit has all the potential to be just that. Unfortunately the opening night of Brisbane Arts Theatre’s “world premiere season” fails to cash in on the winning combination, lacking the professionalism and polish required to carry it off.
The Big Hit centres on the story of the two owner/operators of Brisbane’s only remaining theatre. When Carmel (Marty Cusch) and Olivia (Leah Kinnon) find themselves in financial trouble, they strike a bargain with local strip club dealer Warren Grohl (John Pearson) that allows them to go ahead with the show, provided that his girlfriend, exotic dancer Annie (Selena Cheyne) gets a major role.
The jokes of course draw similarities between the acting and adult industries and involve all the stereotypes of the two, the drama queen Alexandra (Lyndelle Green), the sleazy male lead Rob (David Fowles) and the very blonde, intellectually challenged stripper Annie. But although it has all the right ingredients in theory, the show is let down in the execution and loses its impact in performance.
Not unlike other first night performances, the most pressing issue in the show was timing. Scenes were wont to drag and momentary dialogue hesitations and forgotten lines upset the pace of the show. Considering this was the opening night of the first season, no doubt this will improve with time.
Kusch is suitably vague and artistic as Carmel, and Kinnon plays the role of the overbearing Olivia with plenty of contempt, even if she lays the sneering on a touch heavily. As a pair the two never quite seemed to click as a “couple”, and as a result fail to inspire any great deal of empathy for their woes.
Fowles as the womanising Rob is particularly convincing however, as is Pearson in his theatre debut as Grohl, both of whom demonstrate an excellent ability to take full advantage of the script without going overboard. Unfortunately some of the other characters seem slightly forced. Whether as a result of directional influence, inbuilt script issues, or merely a sign of opening night awkwardness, performances by Natalie Mann in the dual roles of the bank consultant Chloe and real estate agent Betty, Cheyne as Annie and Green as Alexandra all come across as slightly overdone.
A few of the scenes don’t really seem to work in particular Olivia’s meeting with Warren and the very confusing final scene, in which the conclusion comes on so suddenly the audience is left to puzzle out exactly what happened in the final ten minutes of the show. Once again whether this is due to inherent flaws in the script itself or merely poor execution is open to debate.
On the whole, The Big Hit certainly has potential, despite Osuch’s penchant for a cheesy, “happily ever after” ending, but going by the opening night performance there are still some cast and script issues that need to be resolved. With time and further performance opportunities, The Big Hit may well mature into the witty comedy it promises to be, but until then it can only really be seen as a work in progress.