HOW TO ACT AROUND COPS
By Logan Brown with Matthew Benjamin
Directed by Leland Kean
Starring Andrew Bibby, Justin Stewart Cotta, Angela Hattersley, Tamlyn Henderson and Bryce Youngman
Given the success of Tarantino’s latest offering in Inglourious Basterds (and pretty much his entire back catalogue), there are certainly some big shoes to fill when you tout your play as a “Tarantino-style road trip”. Snappy dialogue, dark humour, morally ambiguous characters, plot twists and bloody violence are all that we have come to expect from Tarantino. Thankfully, How to Act Around Cops has all these essential elements to carry it off.
Exploring the guilty conscience and paranoia, the play opens with Barnum (Andrew Bibby) and Madson (Tamlyn Henderson) who are two mates driving home, probably after a couple of beers at the pub. It’s a pretty familiar routine to many of us but when a cop pulls them over, they begin to work each other into a frenzy and we begin to wonder what exactly these guys are up to. The thumps from their boot, like the tell-tale heart, hint at something more sinister.
When first appearances are not what they seem, it is hard to tell who exactly is the bad and not-so-bad guy. While this is not a new theme to explore, this is what pulls you along with the fast-paced storyline, especially when things go awry and the cop (Bryce Youngman) gets trigger happy. The theme is perfectly embodied in Barnum, who is seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time and like the audience, fumbles along while trying to make sense of the dead body in his dead mate’s car. But as the plot twists and turns, the unassuming Barnum, dressed in quintessential bogan gear – a faded Bonds chesty and footy shorts – begins to be cast in a different light. Is he simply an opportunist or the mastermind behind it all? Barnum’s questionable character is given another layer of complexity with the casting of Bibby who used to play the boy next door Lance Wilkinson on the soapie Neighbours. Having said that, the entire cast which also includes Angela Hattersley and Justin Stewart Cotta, successfully play up to our stereotypes and assumptions, only to comically turn them upside down in a series of role-reversals.
The stage design is minimal with most of the action occurring around a beat-up, old car which skilfully morphs into other forms as the scenes require. For a violent story, there is little evidence of blood shed – the production makes great use of a black, sheer backing screen that faintly obscures unsightly actions carried out by the characters. This sense of implied violence is more compelling for the audience’s imagination.
Even though it chooses to wear Tarantino’s influence on it’s bloody sleeve, it’s a clever production – in stage design, writing and casting. Despite going over much covered terrain thematically, the play is lots of fun, leaving you with an open ending that you’ll undoubtedly debate over with your friends when it ends with a bang!
You will love this if: you want to be Tarantino.
You will hate this if: you are Tarantino.
How to Act Around Cops is showing at the Darlinghurst Theatre from 30 September until 30 October