Review: The Whale

Hannah Waterman and Keith Agius in The Whale Photo: Rupert Reid

Hannah Waterman and Keith Agius in The Whale Photo: Rupert Reid

There is nothing quite like going to the Old Fitz Theatre on opening night: it’s an excuse to get dressed up, have a nice glass of wine or a beer and ogle at the variety of Sydney characters in one of the most beautiful buildings in this city. And that’s only half the fun.

The other half is watching the featured play, which currently is The Whale, written by Samuel D Hunter and directed by Shane Anthony.

Keith Agius and Meredith Penman  Photo: Rupert Reid

Keith Agius and Meredith Penman Photo: Rupert Reid

The Whale follows the last weeks in the life of Charlie, a morbidly obese man who cheerfully and obliviously watches as his impending death creates a whirlwind of drama and emotion around him.

While dealing with grim subject matter, The Whale is wickedly funny and entertaining. The humour is due mostly to the complex and unique characters whose interactions are a joy to watch.

The plot is engrossing and Charlie’s worsening health and stubborn refusal to go to the hospital strategically keeps the audience desperate to see what happens next. This makes sitting through the show’s interval feel more like an hour-long ordeal than a quick break to buy some more food and grog.

My only criticism of the plot is that the chance meeting between the young Mormon boy and Charlie feels very convenient but this does not detract from the play’s power to bring an audience to tears and on their feet for a standing ovation at its end.

Much of this is due to excellent performances from the cast under the direction of Shane Anthony.

Keith Agius dons a realistic fat suit to play the overweight Charlie and, literally as well as metaphorically, dominates the stage with his performance.

Hannah Waterman and Chloe Bayliss and are also standout acts; as mother and daughter they mirror each other’s sharp tongues and cut-throat attitude.

The Whale is at the Old Fitz Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo until March 4.

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