Review: Bad, Old Fitz Theatre

Penny Greenhalgh (philosopher) and Kate Walder (stunt man) Photo: Yael Stempler

Penny Greenhalgh (philosopher) and Kate Walder (stunt man) Photo: Yael Stempler


The old Fitzroy Theatre and Hotel enveloped me with kind arms and a cold beer. The anticipation to watch Kate Walder and Penny Greenhalgh’s play Bad stemmed from their very vague explanation, ‘What is bad? Let’s find out together’.

Being my first experience of Walder or Greenhalgh’s work I expected nothing. The famously small and intimate theatre ushered the audience in, wine glasses painting shaded circles on the charcoal seats. As soon as we walked through the doors to the theatre we entered a timeless space.

Walder and Greenhalgh’s performances were undoubtedly quirky, a strange madness thrust among the audience as they utilised this theatrical space for the projection of their absurd inner musings.

The absence of props and stage sets was filled with the use of sound and lighting. In a very Chapman, eccentric, slapstick, comedic way the two actors held the audience captive as they worked (or rather didn’t work) with the sound and lighting.

These elements often offered the punchline of the jokes as they transported us through separate realms and worlds. Throughout the performance the audience was cheerfully amused – the actor’s absurd, clown-like style offered a plethora of layers to the artists’ simplistic play. The bare stage was more than adequately filled by the actors and their stage characters – and the absurdity of the play.

BAD clowns Penny Greenhalgh and Kate Walder Photo: Yael Stempler

BAD clowns Penny Greenhalgh and Kate Walder Photo: Yael Stempler

Theatre of the absurd indeed it was.

Like Beckett, the two Australian women explored absurdist existential questions through their very Godot-like ‘Bucket’, titling their existential play within their play “Where Is My Bucket, Mum? (Starring Kate Blanchet and Geoffrey Rush)”.

Heralding this ‘Clownism’ ,the two actors sent themselves and the audience on a playfully childish yet existential hunt for this unknown ‘bucket’. The work resonates with the philosophical influences of Aristotle and Camus as it explores the concept of meaninglessness through the bucket.

Walder and Greenhalgh’s work adopts the absurdist belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe: the chaos of contemporary life, pop culture, and external influences, of bourgeoisie Australian celebrities, of Kate Blanchet and Geoffrey Rush.

Walder and Greenhalgh’s Bad is a work that hits all the right notes, play crafted from sheer simplicity and a bareness that aids its absurdity and existentialism, a play that is very easy to listen to, laugh to and follow through to the end.

So what is bad? Despite my journey through alternate dimensions of life and a meaningless search for a bucket my answer remains: I really have no idea.

But I can tell you that Bad is good, even great, late night entertainment as it premieres the old Fitz series of late night shows. Definitely worth a look.

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