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THEATRE: 1 OCTOBER 2014

By JOHN ROZENTALS

The Motherf**ker with the Hat, by Stephen Adly Guirgis | Directed by Adam Cook

Darlinghurst Theatre Company | Eternity Theatre, Darlinghurst, Sydney | Until 19 October

The sign in the foyer carries some blunt warnings: “This performance contains frequent coarse language, adult themes, drug references, use of herbal cigarettes.”

I wondered what the Eternity Theatre’s previous occupants — devout Baptists worshipping in the Burton Street Tabernacle — would have made of play’s content, let alone its rather colourful title.

Things just might be on the mend for Jackie (Troy Harrison), and ex drug dealer and recovering alcoholic. He’s just been released from prison, has a job and it looks like his tenuous relationship with his cocaine-addicted girlfriend Veronica (Zoe Trilsbach) might just survive.

Things go mightily awry, though, when Jackie spots a hat on the kitchen table — and it’s not his hat, it’s some other motherf**ker’s hat.

He flies into a testosterone-fuelled rage of jealousy, demanding to know who his girlfriend has been sleeping with.

Harrison and Trilsbach deliver wonderful, often very funny, performances as they go hammer and tongs at each other.

Jackie turns for help to his parole counsellor, Ralph (John Atkinson) who talks him into getting rid of the gun he just procured but has severe problems in his own marriage to Victoria (Megan O’Connell).

I won't spoil the effect by saying exactly why things go even more pear-shaped, but let's just say that the plot becomes extremely convoluted.

But it works a treat. It’s loud and brash and generously sprinkled with foul language, violence and drug use, but it’s fun. And it’s also a timely reminder about relationships and the roles of trust and jealousy.

Some of the best and funniest scenes involve Jackie’s cousin Julio (Nigel Turner-Carroll), who has agreed to look after Jackie’s gun and also seems to have a firm grip on reality.

I’ve seen the play described as “a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery.” That seems about right. Well worth a look.

Troy Harrison and Zoe Trilsbach. All images: Kurt Sneddon.