This is a revisiting of sorts for The Hitmen, last seen in Melbourne in 2017. Playright Mish Wittrup has trimmed and tinkered with the script since then, and what played out on the Theatre Works was lean, mean, and hilarious.
To quote their press release, the play “…Follows six unemployed hopefuls as they take part in a group interview with the hope of obtaining the job of their dreams – a Hitman at K.O.C, Australia’s largest professional agency of contract killers and assassins.” Unfortunately, the benign, communal space these people find themselves in reveals itself to be the corporate equivalent of Thunderdome – six Johns enter, one John leaves.
The staging, laid out by designer, Thomas Mitton, is a lovely, placid combination of IKEA and kikki.K. This bland without being sparse setting is a terrific space for all the early Peter Jackson-esque blood splatters to fling themselves on.
Revisiting also are some of the cast. While there has been some shuffling in the interim, the show orbits again around the brilliant performance of Cazz Bainbridge in the role of Qwen. A study a few years back found that approximately one in five corporate executives share similar traits to that of psychopaths, and to be sure Gwen fits that label more obviously than most. Yet Cazz takes what in lesser hands would be a one-note/joke monster and imbues Gwen with compelling mix of charisma and flair.
When not beating or shooting Johns, Tim Lancaster played Qwen’s assistant, John, with humorous stoicism. Michael Argus, Raymond Martini, and Sophia Petridis step back into their respective roles as John, John, and John, while the remaining Johns were played by Will McDonald, Harry Borland, and Eidann Glover. All were excellent and showed great physical commitment throughout.
In 2020, Gamer John stood out a little by how harmless he was. While still funny to see this caricature of a gamer/fanboy, it’s unfortunately a stereotype that in just a few years has also become woven in with misogynistic elements and notions of toxic masculinity.
Regardless, what The Hitmen skewers with this witty, satirical, not-to-mention-bloody-slapsticked comedy makes for an entertaining fun night out. Anyone familiar with group interviews won’t be horrified by the blood – more so by how recognisable it all seems.
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Performance: Friday 6 March 2020 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 14 March 2020
Information and Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au
Image: The Hitmen – photo by Justine McArthur
Review: David Collins