(extra)ordinary, (un)usual – Pete Malicki and theatre to kick back to. (Theatre Review)
New Theatre, Newtown
Three shows Wed 13,20,27 May
There are many reasons to go to the theatre, but perhaps the most common one is to be enthralled and entertained, with a good dose of giggle added in. It’s a cliché (and a bourgeois condescension) to state that theatre should be ‘for the everyman’ but it is rare that theatre is able to bridge the gap between catering to elite monied patrons and putting on a slapping good show you’d go to rather than attend the football that weekend.
Enter Pete Malicki and his endlessly entertaining monologue show, (extra)ordinay, (un)usual. Now in its third installment, (extra)ordinary, (un)usual is Pete’s brainchild; an annual installment of some of the best contemporary monologues on the circuit. Pete is a high-profile on the Sydney scene with his workshops, his contribution to schools and his now (in)famous monologue project. He is also that rarest of special creatures, an artist that makes an independent living from his career. He’s a fine writer, the recipient of many awards and one of the rising stars competing for that illustrious commendation – one of the most performed playwrights in the world. His monologues are one of the highlights of his writing, something he has given time, thought and practise to, developing an ever-growing sense of theatrical confidence in creating his own special brand of theatre.
(extra)ordinary,(un)usual is always a fun night at the theatre, but it’s equally accurate to say every year these shows get better. Pete writes, stages, directs and produces the shows himself (with a talented cast of course) and manages to sell out every year. A show I particularly loved this year (no spoilers!) involved the synchronised cry of three checkout chicks for acknowledgement of their individuality in the face of their replacement by self checkouts, a concept I found particularly appealing, and cleverly wrought. Pete Malicki has a talent for profundity in the everyday, and in this short play especially, he is able to eek out some thoughtful depth from the funny story-tale banter that he is famous for. It’s in these flashes that Malicki really shines as a writer, revealing a depth that he previously shied away from in favour of an all out energy-as-entertainment aesthetic. Pete Malicki shows us that entertainment doesn’t have to leave thinkers at the door, and as he gets better and better the monologues become more interesting mostly because they tap into a universal that involves us in a shared humanity. One of the most exciting things about attending The Monologue Project every year is watching his style develop into an artistic trade mark that will be impossible to beat.
But all that aside, there is plenty to be had for a very fun, very affordable night at the theatre in version three of (extra)ordinary,(un)usual. Topics given the Malicki touch include an office worker driven to extreme actions through enforced insomnia, a comic/tragic young man committed to rescue a trapped princess, an agoraphobe determined to step outside on their psychiatrists orders as part of their therapy (this particular skit is enhanced by recent tragic events that cause the audience to really think about their daily safety) and a tale filled with twists and turns playing constantly with audience assumptions based around two men who meet in a gay bar. After interval, we are tossed into the ring with a very funny Glenn Wanstall who plays a modest paper seller at a speed dating who suddenly becomes the battleground for possession by a horde of Greek Gods, we join a masochistic bride who only wants the wedding, not the marriage, and will do anything to repeat her fabulous day, Princess Peach from Super Mario Brothers giving us a good dose of the real (this was another favourite of mine – I’d love to see more combinations of gaming culture and theatre) rounding it all off with the aforementioned visit to Coles. The actors are all spot on (if there is one thing Pete does well, its direct a monologue) bringing an enormous committment and energy to each individual project. There are some familiar faces, and some new ones, including Debbie Neilson, Glenn Wanstall, Luke Reeves, Matt Friedman, Raechel Carlsen, Rosemary Ghazi, Tiffany Hoy, Yannick Lawry and Miss Suzie Q who all come to vibrant life under the Malicki touch.
If you’re new to theatre, or think theatre is too pretentious at the best of times, then (extra)ordinary,(un)usual is the show to debunk that idea and welcome you with open arms to the stable. It’s especially made to be enjoyed, to make you laugh and to make you think just that tiny weeny little bit – and that can’t hurt too much can it?