A multi-media, multi-disciplinary production, The Last Great Hunt presents a screening of Whistleblower in real time with actors, directors and technical creatives improvising around a person encountering the work for the first time.
Whistleblower rejoices in a large ensemble cast, featuring audience members in interactive parts. One volunteer plays the closely-watched central character, Charlie Baxter, with another playing their spouse, Lex Harrington. Other small groups participate in bit parts and shared scenes. In classic improv. tradition, the main audience provides material for running jokes.
‘Whistleblower rejoices in a large ensemble cast, featuring audience members in interactive parts.’
Charlie Baxter wakes, handcuffed to a hospital bed, suffering from retrograde amnesia and knowing only their name. Challenged to discover their identity and backstory, their current situation and what they need to do next, Charlie must find clues. Characters and situations force Charlie to make decisions with consequences, the story changing in response to those choices. Structured as 5 chapters, each Charlie’s personality and preference will create separate stories. Despite its inherent spontaneity, Whistleblower is best experienced without plot spoilers.
Turning a random volunteer’s puzzle-solving into coherent performance takes intense creative preparation and technical confidence. The Last Great Hunt again delivers an innovative production with flair, making it all look easy while smoothly integrating a technology, set design, modular music composition and visual humour referencing film, tv and advertising flyers.
Risky improvisation rises to new levels for cast members, who adapt and react to Charlie to maintain narrative momentum while coaching, prompting and filming other volunteer performers, between shared stints as stage crew for rapid set changes. While this juggling act could turn towards novelty or farce, Directors Arielle Gray, Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd and Tim Watts maintain an elegant balance between the contrasting themes of selfishness and self-sacrifice to create structure and a satisfying sense of a unified piece.
Featuring a pair of large screens above the front of stage, hidden cameras track Charlie closely through a series of small rooms. Each set is inside a linked soundproof box, manoeuvred together to create branching options – Charlie must choose one of two destinations for each new scene. Unused scenes are dismantled and replaced, unseen, ready for Charlie’s next decision. Set and Costume Designer Tyler Hill, with Design Assistants Amalia Lambert, Eilish Campbell and Danielle Chilton, has designed each set with visual appeal for the hidden cameras, dense with incidental clues, motifs and opportunities. Screened images, playing with light, angles and film styles, are constantly chosen, edited and enhanced, interspersed with director commentary.
‘The Last Great Hunt again delivers an innovative production with flair, making it all look easy while smoothly integrating a technology, set design, modular music composition and visual humour referencing film, tv and advertising flyers.’
Featuring a conspicuous main stage cluster of computers, sound desk and film cameras, with exuberant signalling between performers and bio box on show, Whistleblower echoes the obsessive creative manipulation of The Truman Show. Turning the music up, down, changing the beat of CLAUDIO’s compositions to reflect developments or intensify mood, performers nudge Charlie to act and react by sending in characters, creating television broadcasts, rocking the set boxes and – when all else fails – making phone calls. Watching every movement and reaction closely, the cast quickly throw images and video crosses above the stage so the audience can see what Charlie is looking at, while watching Charlie’s unfolding reactions to the discoveries.
Interactive performance aims to personal engage each participant, creating unique experiences. Whistleblower combines this intense intimacy with the fascinating voyeurism of direct ‘real life’ live streaming, without cutting corners on cinematic visual cues.
The Last Great Hunt seizes the opportunity of a Perth Festival commission to combine long-form improvisation, interactive performance and screen editing to create thrilling, thoughtful entertainment.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆
The Last Great Hunt
Co-Directors: Arielle Gray, Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd
A Perth Festival 2021 Commission
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
27 February – 7 March 2021