‘Ode To Isaiah Walsh’ is clever, captivating theatre

‘Ode To Isaiah Walsh’ is clever, captivating theatre
Image: ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied

It begins with a crisis. Glam rock star, SINGER, has been found dead in his penthouse apartment on the eve of recording a new album. His manager and marketing team are apoplectic and go into full-throttle damage-control, pulling strings to suppress media leaks, wiggle out of contracts, dictate the narrative. But it turns out SINGER is alive and well, it is Isaiah Walsh, some obscure genius apparently, who is dead on SINGER’s carpet. 

Ben Chapple, Sean Luther Hall, Sian Ewers, Isaro Kayitesi in ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied

This chaotic opening to Ode to Isaiah Walsh establishes the pace and mood to what is a breathlessly fast, dialogue-led, captivating intrigue about a disillusioned alternative-rock star and the co-dependent micro-economy that sustains him. 

Written by Ben Chapple and directed by Chapple and Austin Hayden, this tight, one-act comic-drama takes a swipe at the manufactured, commercial, quasi-political world of popular music and its crushing effect on true creativity. At the same time, it asks if authentic creativity is even possible if an artist wants to enjoy success and fame. 

Nick Drummond and Sean Luther Hall in ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied
ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied

SINGER has all the typical vices of a popular, eccentric star: drug and alcohol abuse; sexual indiscretions; neglected family; lots of skeletons hiding in the closet…and one particularly devastating secret. 

Ode to Isaiah Walsh is filled with little easter eggs, although, sometimes the dialogue is so fast and the humour so subtle, some of them may get missed. The ones that land will make up for that, though. 

In the production this reviewer attended, co-director Austin Hayden stood in for an unwell Nick Drummond in the role of SINGER. Though he had to perform with script in hand, Hayden was very convincing in the role and after a while you barely noticed the script. 

Madeline Marie Dona in ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied

The multi-talented co-director and writer, Ben Chapple, performs in the role of a young, underling who’s naïve enthusiasm is hardened into cold cynicism by the end of the play.  

Madeline Marie Dona plays several roles but absolutely glows with histrionic radiance in the part of SINGER’s wife, herself a famous actress. 

Opening the play with a bluster of expletives and pretty much staying at that temperature throughout, is Sean Luther Hall as the ruthlessly pragmatic manager. Isaro Kayitesi plays the equally cool-headed, viper-tongued lawyer, while Sian Ewers is a complex emotional stew stuffed into a publicist’s body. 

ODE TO ISAIAH WALSH, Old Fitz Theatre. Image: supplied

The unchanging set accommodates several locations convincingly, balancing the psychedelic extravagance of SINGER’s penthouse with the ascetic practicality of the music manager’s office. 

This is a clever, captivating piece of theatre, easy to digest in its late-night slot. 

Until June 28

Old Fitz Theatre, 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo

www.oldfitztheatre.com.au

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