Grass is a manic and hilarious murder mystery by writer-performer duo Bronte Locke and Ryan Henry. With satirical (and anatomical) nods to Agatha Christie, this whodunnit blends classic murder mystery tale, noir-style retellings of formative events and the flashbacks and expositional wrap-up more familiar from modern purveyors of motive and gore á la CSI.
However, none of those touchstone genres have, to my knowledge, ever incorporated finger buns – metaphorically, euphemistically, existentially and yes, literally – to such a satisfying extent.
The Butterfly Club’s maze of corridors and staircases has you thoroughly prepared for mystery by the time you’re seated in exceptionally close quarters to the small stage. The set is minimal, but Locke and Henry hardly need help setting the scene.
The cunning use of costumes, lighting and whispered voice overs has us rotating through a cast of wonderfully absurd characters and hurtling through time and around the grounds of Brownriver High at frightening speed without any danger of ever losing our context.
Dylan McBurney’s flawless execution of the many lighting and sound cues played no small part in this feat. The narrative stays clear throughout with a constant trickle of new incriminating information holding the audience’s interest from start to finish.
I dare not give away the ending but suffice to say there is a heavy dose of cynicism that stands in stark contrast to what we think has been going on – not the typical resolution to a whodunnit but a shocking one nonetheless.
It also manages to pass comment on the dangers of refusing to move on in life. And with that observation I’ll get off the ending before I say too much.
The writing is solid, and the comedy emerges effortlessly. Locke and Henry’s timing is outstanding, and they play off of each other with an ease that makes their collaboration more than the sum of their individual performances.
Add to that a flair for physical comedy, characterisation and dirty dancing and you have two very engaging and entertaining performers. Locke’s turn as the jaded tuckshop convenor with the memory of an elephant hit a particularly rich vein of comedy.
This is a clever and funny twist on the classic murder mystery featuring two skillful performances that is guaranteed to get you giggling.
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Monday 17 October 2022
Season continues to 23 October 2022
For more information, visit: www.melbournefringe.com.au for details.
Image: Ryan Henry and Bronte Locke star in Grass – photo by Elyse Batson
Review: Daniel Townsend