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Review | HELLO, GAZ RHUMBO! at Backdock Arts

Hello, Gaz Rhumbo! is a new absurdist comedy presented by Lightning Bolt Creative and written by Willem Whitfield, who also stars in the titular role, that made its debut

Review | HELLO, GAZ RHUMBO!  at Backdock ArtsHello, Gaz Rhumbo! is a new absurdist comedy presented by Lightning Bolt Creative and written by Willem Whitfield, who also stars in the titular role, that made its debut at Backdock Arts on Saturday. It followed its protagonist's journey from life to death (literally), exploring themes of the innocence, sexuality and the uncertainty of life. For those that know me personally, know that I love absurdism and as a theatre-maker myself, I love to delve into its waters whenever I can. It's a form of theatre that's hard to do and when creating a new work that resides within that genre, it's often easier to flop then to soar. Knowing that, I applaud Whitfield and his company for delving into such uncharted waters. Their work didn't flop, but it also didn't soar.

Stylistically, act one and act two couldn't be further apart. I thought the writing and storytelling in act one was brilliant. The unconventional portrayal of the conventional experiences of adolescence and adulthood in the first act was a very clever choice by director Bronwyn Nayler. To me, the absurdity of it made me draw parallels to adulthood and the uncertainty, anxieties and manic energy of it all, making me question whether or not this period of what we call adolescent thinking, truly ends. Cue an existential crisis. Additionally, I enjoyed how the characters were clearly positioned as narrators with personalities and when Rhumbo recited his closing monologue, it truly felt like I'd been hit in the chest.

Act Two felt like waking up from act ones fever dream, but failed to payoff all the plot threads. These included Rhumbo's dream to become a comedian, his relationship with his dad and Dave. Don't get me wrong, Gina Grey shone as what I interpreted as Death; from her costuming, to her physicality to her tone and her sassy wit. Oddly enough, when I read the program she was credited next to 'Asshole', which I found bizarre and perplexing.... Moving on, I felt that Grey and Whitfield had wonderful chemistry but there didn't seem to be any point to have Grey's character enter the plot as there was nothing achieved in Gumbo's growth by having her there.

Consequently, I felt like act one was a separate show in tone, pacing and story wise then act two and found myself nostalgic for all of the plot holes that were left abandoned from act one.Whitfield unpacked the consequences of not growing up and holding onto childhood idealisms captured both his writing in act one and in his performance with such eloquence, believability and heart that I wish we had more of it in act two.

The ensemble of actors had so much energy, the direction to have characters exist both on stage and off was very entertaining. I had the best time watching act one and I believe that with further workshopping, dramaturgical intervention and performances, this new work of theatre has the potential to soar.

Rating: 3 Stars

Show | Hello, Gaz Rhumbo!

Venue | BackDock Arts

Playwright | Willem Whitfield

Director | Bronwyn Naler

Presented by Lightning Bolt Creative


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