Neridah Waters and Tim Dashwood on stage during Packed.THERE’S that feeling you get when embarking on a trip, a mix of excitement at knowing anything can happen, and trepidation … because anything can happen.
Sitting in the audience of the Butter Factory Theatre waiting for the latest HotHouse Theatre production, Packed, to start, it’s not a dissimilar feeling.
‘Have you been anywhere lately?’, he asks us, taking another slug from a beer as the audience files in.
He (Tim Dashwood) is wearing the stereotypical Aussie traveller uniform of choice — shorts no matter the weather, beer logo singlet, beaded surfer necklace — and is paying no regard to the fourth wall.
In fact, the production — by Brisbane company The Escapists in conjunction with HotHouse Theatre — doesn’t just break the fourth wall, it smashes it to make you feel part of the journey.
Dashwood’s casual banter sets the tone for his character, and he’s someone we’ve all met: the traveller who’s traded in a steady job and real world responsibilities to chase adventures by ticking off as many sights as possible (Eiffel Tower, check) and getting extremely drunk.
He’s obnoxious and loutish and the complete opposite to the straight-laced “She” (Neridah Waters), an anthropologist who looks down on tourists and is searching for the “real” culture of an unnamed country so far untouched by commercial tourism.
They collide, literally, and the play treads a fairly well-worn path: boy meets girl and opposites attract.
But their relationship is just a device to explore the plot’s real intentions: to question where, why and how we live our lives and ask “what are you really searching for?”
But this is a trip after all, and a fun one.
Dashwood is a gifted physical actor who even made the call to turn off all mobile phones at the show’s start hilarious; Waters seems at first to be the straight woman to his joker, but she too has some hysterical moments of her own.
Then there’s Lucas Stibbard, who, to paraphrase artistic director Jon Halpin, has an incredible knack of bringing inanimate objects to life — if only travel guidebooks had as much personality as his incarnation.
The writing is witty and the script moves at a pace, with all three actors showing impeccable timing; on opening night there were a few slips, but these were smoothed over to the point where they seemed part of the characters.
Clever animations move the story along and a simple setting invites the audience to imagine the far-off lands they are exploring.
There’s a serious message, but Packed doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It’s everything travel ought to be: exciting, unexpected and just a little crazy.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.