By Lucinda Naughton
Kissing Booth collaborate with Theatre Works to bring Leopard Print Loincloth, written by Jake Stewart and directed by Dominic Weintraub, to the stage. Leopard Print Loincloth is an episodic exploration of contemporary Australian masculinity that is both hilarious and thoughtful, brutal and sensitive. The play was developed from a community of over sixty Melbourne men who were brought together by Stewart and Weintraub to workshop their stories. Thus, genuinely inspired by these Australian men’s stories, the play looks at the expectations, requirements, and peculiarities of being a man in a bravely honest way. Through showcasing so many different truthful scenarios, the production invites the audience to explore what is underneath the physical exterior.
As the audience walks into the theatre and gathers their seats, Stewart hands out Zooper Doopers from an esky on stage to much delight. The play opens with a ‘prologue’, as is overly explained to the audience for comedic effect, which sets up the strong meta-theatrical aspect used throughout the production: an actor auditioning for a play. The audience line both sides of the narrow long stage and the auditionee stands centre stage turning back and forth between his audition panel and his friend who he is explaining his audition process to. It’s a very effective technique to delve into his thought process during the audition, resulting in great comedic effect.
The all-male cast is incredibly present and impressively adaptable. Joel Beasley, Eamon Dunphy, Ben Goss, Max Greenham, Luey Kemp-Mykyta, and Rhys Wilson take on many different roles and all succeed in sharing surprising moments of depth. The contrasting scenes of everyday problems and relationships struggles manage to catch you short, breaking your expectation of how each will unfurl. Jake Stewart’s genius is at work. Despite the actors’ changing personas, there’s still a feeling of character development as in the second act the scenes become more emotional than the lighter first act. This structure works well.
The play’s humour is strong and multi-faceted; there are some great lines, character funny moments, and there is also much playing on the Australian masculinity we know, which takes us on a deeper journey through the complexities within. There are also greatly surprising moments, where the production uses meta-theatre to draw attention to itself and break the fourth wall, yet, the breaking is not the shocking part, the play still manages to shock you within the meta technique. This is a huge feat to accomplish and Weintraub and Stewart, along with the cast, certainly deliver impressively. To shift from a group of teenage bullies playing ‘chicken’, to a couple arguing about the damaging effects of cheating, in one swift blow within one scene is a beautiful thing to witness.
For me, the play is so engaging because the exploration of contemporary Australian masculinity is so sensitive. The play works as a continuous balancing act between characters, emotions, moods, scenes, which perhaps reflects the balancing act of contemporary Australian masculinity between expectations and shifting realities. There are many scenes of humour and typical Australian characteristics portrayed hilariously, yet there are many moments of honesty and vulnerability, such as confessions of love, cheating, mistakes, and moments of breaking those expectations perhaps we carry into the show with us. Not only our expectations of masculinity but of theatre, male theatre, writers and directors, and meta-theatre. The production relentlessly keeps shattering these expectations by twisting the direction of a scene, which is exactly why it is so bold, engaging, and thoughtful. Leopard Print Loincloth exceeded my expectations and is very exciting theatre to see.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.