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Review: Bondi Legal at the Bondi Pavilion

By James Ong

The Bondi Pavilion is quite a space, one that can use its beautiful scenery and remarkable facilities to draw in crowds from all over Sydney. The locally named Bondi Legal has just began its run in the theatre space and with its production company (Bondi Theatre Company) also named after this historic tourist destination, we are promised a wacky courtroom comedy that draws upon this wonderful setting. Certainly wacky, Bondi Legal actually has nothing to do with the titular locale, and seems to miss the mark, ultimately delivering a sloppily conceived and realised satire that almost entirely disregards its namesake. Brought to us by playwright and actual lawyer Tony Laumberg, Bondi Legal focuses on an almost useless lawyer Brad (played by an electric and determined Michael Arvithis) as he is suddenly thrust into a dramatic lawsuit to take down a large scale chemical company. Though challenged with a not particularly enthralling plot and some difficult to sell comedy, Arvithis centres the play with an energetically anxious performance that keeps the narrative bounding forward and provides some much needed energy for the supporting characters to draw upon. Those tasked with delivering exposition did seem weighed down by this narrative duty however, and the pace dipped in these scattered minor moments. Also a strong performer, Valentino Arica helps to breathe a playful air into the space with his several caricatured cameos, ranging in tone, accent and composition. The momentum established by this energetic cast keeps us on our toes as new waves roll through. The entirety of the play takes place in either a courtroom or a small office, which does limit the production’s Bondi-ness quite a bit. The space is adorned with several ornate courtroom set pieces that sit rocksteady and rigid. Not beach related and not particularly enthralling either, but entirely functional for the story they were telling and providing a solid base for the bombastic performances to launch from and contrast against. Equally rigid were the other design elements - lighting and sound were used very sparingly to signal new settings. The costuming, though practical, was definitely underutilised in expanding the grandiose performances. Beyond the light-hearted, escapist humour, it’s hard to find any further depth or reason for the production. Despite the play being loosely inspired by a real-life case from Laumberg’s career, there is not much in the way of originality or authenticity. The legal proceedings are heavily dramatised to the point where it seems they were intentionally dumbed down for broad audiences to understand - a tad too much in my opinion. This extends to the general approach to comedy as well, with Bondi Legal existing as an odd concoction of forced farce and cliched situational comedy. The few decent jokes ended up being repeated and prodded from different angles and milked to death, hindering the flow of the wider piece. In Bondi Legal, Laumberg and director Richard Cotter have teamed to craft a semi-satirical, semi-farcical legal comedy that, though messy, is ultimately harmless and happy-spirited. Though it contains some cringey cliches, Bondi Legal is at its heart a kindhearted work that is determined to put a smile on your face, one way or another.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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