The Beast by Eddie Perfect
Tom Healey on the latest release from Red Door
|click here to find out more||Eddie Perfect|
Eddie Perfect is one of the most original and passionate artists working in Australia today. His mordant wit, passionate politics and unstoppable urge to entertain are all hallmarks of his writing as a lyricist, composer and now playwright. Eddie’s work sits in a rich performance tradition. Although it is utterly original and his voice unmistakable, he brings the same kind of wry and occasionally savage lens to our experience of the world as the great Barry Humphries and the legions of writer/performer teams who made such television shows as Fast Forward, Frontline and (for those with long memories) Aunty Jack.
It is often said that the Australian sense of humour (if such a thing could ever be quantified) is characterised by irreverence. In a general sense, I would have to agree – certainly all the examples so far mentioned fit into this general descriptor – but at its best, that irreverence has a serious purpose. The kind of satire that Eddie (and Humphries) writes is often deeply uncomfortable, even while it makes you cry with laughter. I have often sat red-faced in the theatre watching Eddie’s work because he is so good at exposing pretension, at digging out the sometimes very flimsy foundations of political correctness, racism and xenophobia.
The Beast, commissioned and premiered by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2013 is no exception. Set in the Yarra Valley, it explores the underbelly of our contemporary middle class. In many ways, it reminds me of David Williamson. A different generation of course and therefore speaking to a different set of issues, but the effect is remarkably similar. Eddie puts these characters through hell as they work their way through a degustation meal of a cow they have slaughtered themselves, meanwhile suffering the indignity of having all of their neuroses, fears and prejudices ruthlessly exposed.
But Eddie’s charter goes way beyond ridicule. His savagery is always accompanied by two important companions: his affection and empathy for his subjects, and his complicity with the audience. I never feel accused by Eddie’s work. Implicated? Absolutely! But not guilty - or at least not judged. This, I think, is because his comedy is charged with a genuine desire to make the world a better place. He implicates himself in everything he writes – his voice always feels like he’s one of us, rather than preaching to us. So much of what he writes about has no easy answers, and very often satirizes people who are genuinely trying to do the right thing, to be good people. His sights are really on the ‘machine’, the almost indefinable force that sits at the centre of society, and his defiant voice reminds us that speaking up, thinking, protest and scrutiny are our best weapons. The truth is that the ‘force’ is formed by mutual assent: we are what we agree to be - this is the great blessing and the great curse of democracy. Eddie’s voice – strident, passionate and inspiring – is a reminder that we all have a role to play. His work throws down a metaphorical gauntlet.
The Beast is a cracker of a play – horrifying, laugh-out-loud hilarious and deeply thought provoking. The phrase ‘voice of a generation’ gets thrown around a lot and I often get annoyed when I read or hear it, but Eddie is certainly articulating something quite specific to the age in which he is writing, and he’s doing it like no other. He is an artist I am proud to know and be associated with and I commend this most wonderful, black and extraordinary comedy to you!
Tom Healey, August 2014
Australian Script Centre Literary Manager and curator of its Red Door imprint
|Tom Healey in conversation with Eddie Perfect|