Guns, backmail, rats, corpses, ransoms, and cannibals. It’s just an average Central Melbourne hangover like any other.
Plain English Theatre Company’s A Dirty Kebab is the latest play by writer and director Savier D’Arsie-Marquez. It follows two (and a half) housemates over a 24-hour period during the worst hangover ever. Kate (Lucy May Knight) and current partner Greg (Joe Eidelson) wake up from their latest drug fuelled haze to the same mess their lives are always in. The difference this time is that Kate’s former lover and Greg’s best (only) friend Derrick (Noah Gill) sits still on the couch dead with a dirty kebab in his clutches!
Before they know it, Derrick’s drug-supplying bikie uncle ‘Big Dick’ Barry (Aston Elliot) is at their door looking for $10,000 in payment. This is for drugs that Kate and Greg have snorted and smoked a fair amount of themselves. Desperation sets in and the duo look to screw over whoever they can including their soft pal Tim (Rohan Dimsey) to get the money together. But maybe this is just the latest in a long line of debacles which comes with being young, poor, and drunk in Melbourne.
While looking at the perils of being an aimless 20-something, A Dirty Kebab is a play at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Part The Hangover and part Weekend at Bernie’s, there are many laughs to be had at the absurdity of it all.
I think a lot of us, if we don’t see ourselves in Kate and Greg, at least know people like them. And if having a corpse to deal with isn’t enough, the pair manage to dig themselves deeper and deeper. At a certain point, it is not even the crazed bikie which is the duos greatest enemy, so much as it is their own greed and lack of foresight.
Kate is a grown-up party girl dealing with the ramifications of continuing to live that life. Her current boyfriend is a drugged-out loser with delusions of grandeur while her former, perhaps better, partner is now stinking up the living room. Lucy May Knight does a wonderful job at being the heart of the play. There comes a moment of real introspection as to who Kate she is and how she got there. It does feel a little out of place considering the humour of the rest of the show, but Knight’s ability is enough to still make it work.
Much of the comedy of the piece comes thanks to Eidelson’s hilariously eccentric performance. Greg is a legend in his own mind and is determined to be ranked among the rich and famous celebrities who died at 27. Except, he only has a few years left to actually make it big.
Big Dick Barry only makes a few appearances, but Elliot makes his decidedly threatening presence known. I also definitely got a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman feel from Dimsey in the role as poor Tim, the young man acting as a punching bag for our two miscreants throughout the play’s second half.
The set of A Dirty Kebab is a simple one but that’s all it needs to be. The brick wall backed theatre of The Motley Bauhaus lends itself well to the grungy feel of a worn down drug den. Likewise, there is not much need for special effects throughout. However, acts of violence are effectively punctuated by flashes of red light overtaking the entire stage.
A Dirty Kebab is a hysterically funny drug-fuelled black comedy. With some sly wit, it shines a light on what endless partying, alcoholism and a huge ego can lead to if left unchecked. This is a show well worth checking out for a fun night of laughs.
A Dirty Kebab is now playing at The Motley Bauhaus, Carlton until February 18, 2023.
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Photography by Tyrone Cross.