Review By Tatum Stafford
The Last Great Hunt theatre company, based right here in Western Australia, are renowned for their ambitious and impressive productions. Last night’s opening of ‘Whistleblower’, a Perth Festival commission, was no different.
As we were ushered inside the theatre, there were a group of players hard at work around a group of monitors, and another group handing clipboards to different audience members gathered near the front of the stage.
Once the lights dimmed, we were introduced to the star of tonight’s performance, a woman named Rose who had been plucked from the stalls, mic’d up and ready to be transported into the ‘Whistleblower’ world. There was a quick briefing, in which we met the show’s lead character Charlie Baxter (who Role inhabited), and Charlie’s spouse Lex Harrington, who was also pulled from the audience.
What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. Without giving too much away, the ‘Whistleblower’ set is built out of large, sound-proof, shipping container-style boxes that resembled a range of different sets that Charlie (Rose) navigated her way through. There are five chapters in the performance, and with each path forming a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’, the specific plot we saw on Sunday night will never be replicated again.
All the while, Charlie couldn’t see ‘out’, but we could see ‘in’, thanks to a series of 360-degree video cameras meticulously hidden throughout each set she stepped into. A hilarious highlight of the show involved a green screen, where audience members read off scripts to mimic a news show – that was broadcast straight onto a TV so Charlie could hear updates first-hand. It was a cheeky behind-the-scenes look into how this theatre company was pulling everything off, and it felt really gratifying and exciting to be ‘in on the joke’.
The creativity behind this performance is mind-blowing. Throughout Charlie’s movements as each chapter progressed, The Last Great Hunt’s troupe of performers were on hand to improvise their way through storylines, guide Charlie via a phone that served as her only connection to anyone outside of the set, and let the audience in on the fun, frequently breaking the fourth wall to comment on clues Charlie was yet to find or making humorous remarks about Charlie’s pure reactions to the many goings-on of the show’s zany characters.
As a frequent theatregoer here in Perth, I’m so grateful that the Perth Festival Artistic Director Iain Grandage commissioned such a progressive and captivating piece of theatre. ‘Whistleblower’ is a clear highlight of this year’s festival program, and I urge you to buy a ticket for an upcoming performance this week. Who knows, you may even get to tick ‘perform a lead role in a play’ off your bucket list!