Pic 1: Andrew Wallace, Jason Nash and Michael Civitano.
Pic 2: Michael Civitano and Megan Bennett. Pic 3: Erik de Wit. Photos by dan Ryan.
By Joseph Zettelmaier
Directed by Cameron Castles
Centenary Theatre Group
Chelmer Community Hall
Corner Queenscroft ad Halsbury Streets
Season: November 9-30. Duration: two hours 30 minutes with interval. Bookings: www.centenarytheatre.com.au or 0435 591 720
Centenary Theatre group has never shied away from something different – even odd as this production turned out to be.
Pulp is a puzzling play that has one act sending up the film noir private eye movies (think Bogie and Bacall) and the second turning into weird fantasy where pulp fiction writers turn into their characters to create sheer lunacy that had half the audience screaming with laughter and the other half wondering what the hell was going on.
It perplexed me somewhat until I researched the play and discovered that in fact it was two one-act plays that were later linked by the playwright. It made some sort of sense then.
The scene is set in Los Angeles in1933. PI Frank Ellery (Michael Civitano), the fedora-wearing detective is down on luck (and it shows in his costume). He sits in his dingy office slugging down scotch when in walks the compulsory blonde bombshell, Desiree St. Clair (Megan Bennett), the romance novelist.
Her literary agent has been gruesomely murdered and she hires Ellery to discover the killer and clear her own name. She is one of the four suspects – his remaining clients, are all writers representative of different pulp genres, the science fiction writer Bradley Rayburn (Erik de Wit), R.A. Lyncroft (Andrew Wallace) the horror writer and Walter Kingston-Smith (Jason Nash) whose genre is crime-fighting.
After meeting the diverse group, of suspects, all played a bit over the top and Ellery and St Clair turn into a pair of unlikely lovers it was interval.
Then, as the social media promotions told us over the past few weeks, it was not what we thought, neither was Desiree St. Clair. So the plot dissolved into whacky spoof characters – particularly spoofy was Walter Kingston-Smith who Jason Nash turned into an eye-masked and extremely camp caped crusader; the sci-fi guy turned into a time traveller and the horror writer became a high priest of some long forgotten and ungodly death cult.
Whodunnit? Yes, there is an answer. Our doughty PI does solve the case.
There were a lot of laughs and some great, deliberate over-acting in the second act.
The scene changes and the simple set, a desk, a sofa and a few chairs was given atmosphere by some terrific back projection that added depth to the several different locations.
And pre-show and during the interval the screen was lit by a fascinating display of original pulp fiction posters. Huge congratulations to the crew that worked that screen.
Full marks go to the cast who created those bizarre characters without dropping a line or losing energy. The play was peculiar, but the production values were extremely high – even to having the stage manager and assistant moving furniture in fedoras and raincoats.