I've not the time nor, I confess, the incentive, to do a long blog review of the MTC production of Tony McNamara's The Grenade, which opened last week at the Playhouse. So, for those who are interested, here's what I wrote for yesterday's Australian. It begins:
THE Grenade is the sort of play that makes me wonder why people don't stay home and watch Arrested Development on their widescreen TV. Television does this stuff so much better; and besides, you can order pizza.
It's not as if it's a bad play. Although Tony McNamara is an unashamedly populist playwright, he's a cut above a David Williamson. He sets up stereotypes in order to explode them with the unexpected, and there is a cruel edge to some of his comedy that, at a stretch, could enter an Ortonesque universe.
But this is comedy that reassures, and any promising subversion is despatched quickly. As Bertolt Brecht said, "The bourgeois theatre's performances always aim at smoothing over contradictions, at creating false harmony, at idealisation".
The Grenade is bourgeois theatre par excellence, and part of me wearies of pointing out that its function is to anaesthetise its audience's anxieties about themselves and the world. After all, why shouldn't theatre have the same function as several cocktails?
The only thing I didn't discuss - 400 words isn't a lot - was the performances, which I thought pretty good, from a fine cast notable for some interesting new faces. Garry McDonald is always fun to watch, but he seemed here a little lost in the stylistic confusion - was he playing it for real, or playing it for laughs? I thought the most successful performances were those that played against the naturalism, like Jolyon James, who played the erotica writer/pornstar/ex-soldier/21st century hippy as if he were something in The Mighty Boosh. Anyway, over to you.