Hot off the presses

Theatre Review by Lisa Romeo
What: Unpack This!
Where: Gasworks Theatre
When: 20 June and 21 June 2014
Writer and Director: Geoff Paine
Cast: Michelle Nussey, Syd Brisbane, Ross Daniels and Geoff Paine
Unpack This! is presented by Redskin Productions and Gasworks Arts Park as part of their Moving Parts theatre season. It is a comedy that tackles one of societies very difficult psychological problems; anger management. Short and sharp this play is funny, in a mordant kind of way, it is a clever send up of the difficulties that social workers face and brings out the humour of six characters who are each dealing with their own diverse anger issues.
In a training room type-setting, complete with whiteboard and chairs, social worker/counsellor (played by Syd Brisbane) is at the ready. Pumped and keen to get the session started, he struts around the room and rubs his hands together, eagerly awaiting to commence the procedures of the day. The second, less animated counsellor (played by Michelle Nussey) joins Brisbane; she is an even tempered, professional, with a tense and straight posture; she finds a seat and starts to take notes.
This class, consisting of six participants who each have their own difficult and varied problems, are seeking solutions that may help manage their anger; their stories are deciphered one by one, with character changes taking place as swift as the swap of a chair.
We are introduced to the 71 year old man who lost his wife, his anger is towards his all too young neighbours; we meet the Asian who claims his intervention order is all wrong, he is blameless; then the drug loving and calm Nicko who is my favourite, obviously not attending this class of his own accord but forced to be here, he is cool and calm and makes the occasional snide remark, hoping to get a bite. The acting out of all six characters by just two actors (Daniels and Paine) is superb and very funny indeed.
Quick witted and hilarious antics continue to unfold, providing much laughter and insight into the minds of six men, all of whom are from very different walks of life. With lots of politically incorrect and chauvinistic slurs from the participants, who in turn are trying to find good reasons to justify their anger, the counsellors with their much typical social worker jargon display the great frustrations of their position. Having very little success in trying to get through to his own students in attendance, Brisbane’s character begins to lose his temper and exposes that he and his colleague have their own anger issues to sort through.
Discussions go round and round in circles and are achieving nothing but more confusion, to the point where the proceedings are threatened and start to fall off the rails. It seems that, although the good intention is to defuse the anger, it is instead fuelled, and ends up turning into one very heated and angry session. While build up is gradual, it inevitably moves rapidly into a confused state of events.
Unpack This! is quite hilarious and the funny side of such a difficult scenario is beautifully and skilfully presented. The song ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is used as the soundtrack and such a dreadful song suits the dreadful direction that the counselling session has taken. All the cast are brilliant actors and as Writer and Director, Geoff Paine does not disappoint in bringing his story to great heights of comedy.
4 stars
Along with Geoff Paine’s live theatre work he is also famous for appearing on television shows such as Neighbours, A Country Practice, Blue Heelers and The Comedy Company, to name a few.