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Australian Comedy Thriller Classic Revived
I still remember Warwick Moss as the deep-voiced, enigmatic presenter from the Australian TV series, The Extraordinary in the 1990s. Anyone else?
Little did I realise that quite apart from his later presenting roles, Moss is first and foremost an actor (with a list of impressive television and film credits) and an award-winning playwright. The latter is an accolade won for none other than Down an Alley Filled with Cats, a comedy thriller, hailed as a 'lost Australian classic'.
Photo by Andrew Langcake - The protagonists are caught in a cat-and-mouse game
Australian theatre at its best is always worth an audience's patronage and this long-awaited revival of Moss's play is no exception.
The two-man drama, starring Gabriel Egan and William Jordan, is set in an old bookshop in Sydney, run by eccentric proprietor Timothy Timmony, played cleverly by Jordan. Timmony's seemingly quiet existence is shattered by the appearance of cocky 'adventurer' Simon Matthews, performed to the hilt by Egan. Matthews' frantic search for a volume on the Napoleonic wars, quickly turns into a battle of wits between two treasure hunters desperate to outsmart each other for a grand prize.
Photo by Andrew Langcake - Is Timothy Timmony more than a humble bookseller?
A classic game of cat-and-mouse ensues, with the play's signature suspense emanating from the unassuming bookseller. Timmony spins a web of lies for his young counterpart to unravel, creating a thread of plot twists that will keep the audience (and Matthews) guessing until the final moment.
Two-man plays aren't easy to pull off, either for the director or the players. It's a huge burden for the actors to carry the weight of the audience's expectations and interest for the duration of the performance. A two-man play executed well, can therefore be a highly engaging and rewarding theatre experience. In my book, Down and Alley Filled with Cats pulls it off, with the perfect combination of writing, directing and casting.
Photo by Andrew Langcake - Will the cocky Simon Matthews outsmart his older opponent?
Warwick Moss's script is a cleverly-crafted blend of comedy and suspense. His characterisations of the crass, ocker Matthews, battling the wits of the ageing, immigrant bookseller, create the perfect foil to sustain the cat-and-mouse game, interspersed with classic Aussie humour, to relieve the tension.
Director Tom Richards' years of experience in television drama and theatre shine through in his deft navigation of the script's pressure-cooker confines and its reliance on the chemistry between its polar opposite leads. It's a tight production from start to finish and the audience becomes a willing participant in 'the game'.
Photo by Andrew Langcake - The treasure hunters lock horns
Gabriel Egan, a familiar face from appearances in popular TV drama series and William Jordan, a theatre performer and playwright, are brilliantly cast in their contrasting roles. They fearlessly confront the moments of high drama and tension in the play, whilst conveying the script's underlying black humour with comic timing that propels the closely-confined action along.
There are plays that rely on bells and whistles for their success and others that rely on simplicity, script and performance craft. King Street Theatre is known for its support of the latter kind and it's refreshing to experience as a theatre-goer. Though we are immersed as a nation, with American and British pop culture, I believe Australians still love seeing Australian stories by Australians. Our humour is just as unique and valid as any other and when it's done well, we appreciate it like no other.
For this reason, I recommend you take the opportunity to catch the revival of this lost classic while you can during its season in Newtown. It's a good night out; affordable and perfect in length and entertainment value.