Chasing the Whale

Chasing the Whale


Chasing the Whale

Soapbox Theatre Productions

The Space, The Arts Centre Gold Coast

1st – 10th November 2012


Reviewed by Lisa Gallagher


Chasing the Whale by Matthew Ryan (originally titled The Dance of Jeremiah) made its premiere in 2005 with Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company, bagging several awards including 2005 winner of Queensland Theatre Company’s 2000 George Landen Dann Award and was heavily nominated all round for the 2005 Matilda Awards after its La Boite Season.

This thought provoking comedy is brought to you by Soapbox Theatre Productions¸ who are the first production company to stage the revised version of the play.  Soapbox Theatre Productions are the current Artists in Residence at the Gold Coast Arts Centre.   Soap Box has produced works such as Tame It! (Swinging Safari and Cremorne Theatre – 2High Festival), Twelfth Night (Griffith University Drama Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Pines Resort), O Woe Is Me (Brisbane Powerhouse – 2High Festival), Sophie Is… (Griffith University Drama Theatre) and The Taming of the Shrew (Griffith University Drama Theatre and The Zoo – The Anywhere Theatre Festival). 2011 saw Soapbox stage the highly successful The Taming of The Shrew and Cosi by Louis Nowra at the Arts Centre Gold Coast as part of the Fill this Space Program, while also securing a partnership with Artslink Queensland in touring Sophie Is….

Chasing the Whale is directed by Jessica Westhead, the current Artistic Director for Soapbox Theatre Productions.  Jessica has directed several productions such as The Taming of The Shrew (2011), Sophie Is… (2009), O Woe Is Me! (2007) and Production Coordinator for Twelfth Night (2006) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2006).  In Chasing the Whale, Jessica has made a sense of reality; the audience can relate to the characters, invoking a response of recognition, seeing a little of each character and their situations in themselves. A good comedy needs the actors to be in tune, with a sense of timing that has to come from either a very natural place or be very craftily directed. Both of these elements are evident Chasing the Whale.

Chasing the Whale is a play that many people could relate to.  Jerry Daniels is losing it, falling apart.  When Jerry’s boss and mentor meets a tragic end, he suddenly finds himself competing for the top job.  Jerry’s life has been pretty charmed up until this point.  He is blissfully unaware of what he has sacrificed to live in his perfect world.  Unmatched in the advertising world, Jerry is used to winning and begins his campaign for the top job.  Is Jerry working too hard, has it all become too much?  What else could explain the strange things that are happening?  Office desks begin to chase him, umbrellas are raining from the sky, and a self help tape becomes a little too personal when it begins to talk to him!  Haunted by his own Ad campaigns, Jerry’s life begins to unravel; can he keep it all together?

Stephen Hirst as Jerry Daniels is superb at portraying a high-flying ad exec who lives to create the next big illusion that will convince people that they need ‘it’.  He is able to embody that person who is sought after and copied in his professional life, but his personal life is in peril.  Hirst was a pleasure to watch, the seamless transition of his character showing his range to great effect.

Sarah Kennedy plays dual roles as Beth and The Girl.  Kennedy’s relationship with Hirst’s Jerry was hard to decipher at first, which adds to the depth and believability of the performance.  Kennedy was fantastic as the girl. The role allowed her to be fun, full of spirit and a little bit kooky.  The comparison between Kennedy’s portrayal of Beth and The Girl is very well done.  One is likeable, funny and sweet, the other bitter, sad and lonely.  Definitely gives one the chance to look at opportunity missed and what could have been.

James Odenbreit plays dual roles of Paul and the Guru on the self help tape. Odenbreit’s sense of timing was great. His energy as the Guru was invigorating; his presence so vibrant that he owned the stage.  So great was his change in demeanour from the guru to the fumbling Paul, I did a double take to check it actually was the same actor playing both roles.

Garth Ledwidge plays both Simon and Tom in the production.  Whilst we do not get to know Tom very well, Ledwidge certainly hits the spot with Simon.  His portrayal of the sneaky colleague who is only out for themselves is fantastic.  Watching him you know he is bad, yet he can be so nice.  Even though you know he is a narcissist, through Ledwidge’s portrayal of Simon, you almost want to like him.

Kim Stewart is terrific as the very literal Darcy!  Stewart demonstrated exceptional comedic timing, often stealing the show when she was on stage.  Stewart’s character was very likeable yet annoying at the same time.  Stewart’s character could have been just an addition to the play, but with Westhead’s direction and Stewart’s portrayal she was very much a central part of the experience.

Some parts of the play are left up to the audience to decipher and draw their own conclusions; this allows each audience member to take away something different, something personal to them.   If you have not been to a performance in The Space at the Gold Coast Art’s Centre, do yourself a favour and see Chasing the Whale.

Tickets still available from the Arts Centre for the final performances:   Thu Nov 8 at 7:30pm, Fri Nov 9 at 7:30pm, Sat Nov 10 at 7:30pm.



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