The Neon Tiger Bar - with Arisa (Courtney Stewart) and Andy (Lisa Hanley. Photo by Dylan Evans.
By Julia-Rose Lewis
Music by Gillian Cosgriff
Directed by Kat Henry
La Boite Theatre Company in Association with the Brisbane Powerhouse
The Roundhouse Theatre
Season: October 27-November 17. Duration: 90 minutes, no interval. Bookings: 07 3007 8600 or www.laboite.com.au
Neon Tiger is a neat little one-act play that, with words and music, sticks happily in the mind. It is a delightful piece that fully deserved the rapturous opening night reception it received. It’s funny and dramatic in parts and has the simplest of plots: it tells the story of ten days in the lives of two girls from different backgrounds who meet in a bar in steamy Bangkok.
Andy is an Aussie bar girl who ran away from disastrous love affairs and five years later is still there, living in a room above the bar. Arisa is half Thai, half American student who travelled to Bangkok to suss out her mother’s heritage. She is living in a five-star hotel and her visit to the bar was a completely random act.
They are two completely different people and neither is looking for an overseas romance. Andy is definitely love shy, but acknowledges the fact that she is a sucker for affection. However there is a mutual, but initially submerged attraction, which is slowly, but still reluctantly, allowed to blossom.
Andy, who does all the singing of some terrific songs, is played by Lisa Hanley and Arisa by Courtney Stewart. They are both superb in their roles aided by a clever script that brings out all the facets if the two complex characters. I was gripped from beginning to the end as I saw their feelings grow, stop, hide, and re-emerge stronger than before.
There was some neat touched to the script as, at times both characters broke through the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience to reveal the thoughts that could not be revealed in conversation between them. They both had their insecurity problems.
This little device brought many of the laughs that peppered this very different stage musical.
The characters are young and the setting a popular spot for young travellers from Australia – so it’s a play with strong appeal for a younger audience, but then there are those who did their gap back-packing trip years ago and still have pleasant memories. Bangkok is also a popular stopover spot for older travellers on a trip to Europe. It is a stop I’ve done myself a few times, so the setting is a familiar one for most people.
The sets itself is simple but highly effective and with neon lighting strips, steps, balconies and sun-washed colouring it really was reminiscent of a Bangkok bar. I loved them hint at Bangkok’s infamous electric cables that hang everywhere and seem to go nowhere. It was truly creative work from Sarah Winter (set) and Andrew Meadows (lighting). I would also like to commend Guy Webster on the sound. I have been critical in the recent past of sound in the Roundhouse, but on this opening night it was spot on, every word of every line and every song was completely audible.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would recommend it as one of those rare productions that can be enjoyed by any age group on many different levels.