‘The Confidence Man’

‘The Confidence Man’ a wonderful piece of inventive, theatrical interactivity and discourse, created by Zoe Pepper and Adriane Daff. Under the artistic directorship of Melissa Cantwell, this psychotic thriller is a collaboration of Perth’s award-winning Side Pony Productions and the innovative Perth Theatre Company (PTC) presents a programme of exciting breakthrough in contemporary theatre, in the Studio Underground within the State Theatre Centre of WA, Northbridge.

The fun-filled 45-minute performances can be seen each night at 6.30 and 8.00, with extra 4.00 pm shows on Saturdays and Sundays. The season runs until 10th May.

The set is on the theatre floor level. The 74 audience seats are arranged in the ‘round’ – or to be more accurate – in the ‘square’. On each chair lies a headset and a smart phone.

The stage square in the centre is about 20 by 20 metres, the size of a large retirement unit. Drawn onto the black floor are white lines, these are the ‘walls’ of the sitting room, kitchen, double bedroom, single bedroom, offices and backyard. The rooms are fully furnished and the garden substantial.

       The theatre lights dim and six spotlights glow (lighting designer – Lucy Birkinshaw), highlighting the six audience volunteers, the actors for this show. The large, non-claustrophobic masks are constructed of fly wire; they are then beautifully decorated with a bright face that suits each character’s personality (mask designer – Rebecca Baumann). Under the ‘head’, the actor wears a headset that guides them through the story, giving them instructions of what to do next.

       There is no script for any actor to learn, the pre-recorded dialogue track features vocal performances by some of Perth’s finest actors Igor Sas, Brendan Ewing, Andrew Hale, Talei Howell Price, Kate Neylon, Adriane Daff, Mikala Westall, Will O’Mahony, Sean Walsh, Kym Bidstrup and Brent Hill. The audience hear the full sound track, however, the cast only the narration and the dialogue of the other cast members in the room. Actors in other rooms do not hear another room’s dialogue. Also missing to the actors is the wonderful soundscape / music by composer Ash Gibson Greig, and the work of sound designer Sam Price.

       The actor is in the same position as the audience members. The gripping tale being whispered into the actor’s ears, it unfolds as in real life with the participants not knowing any of the storyline in advance.

       Using their headphones, the audience can eavesdrop on characters’ private thoughts. They can also chose, which area of the action they wish to follow by selecting from six buttons on the Smartphone, inventive storytelling at its most memorable.

        When a friend arrives at Peter’s house with a large sports bag full of cash, his family find themselves caught up in a sinister and disturbing chain of events. The ‘Confidence Man’ is the story of an ordinary family placed in an extraordinary situation. What should they do?

Director Zoë Pepper with assistant director and creator, Adriane Daff, have devised an ingenious, interactive audio experience that gives the audience and actors a novel happening. The ease of use of the audience and participants’ system, hides what must have been extremely complex to create. Brilliant.

If you do want to take part in this exceptional experience, as I did for this review, get to the theatre early and speak to one of the friendly ushers.

Yet again members of the talented and highly inventive, Pepper Family (Zoë and Gemma) have come up with a piece of dynamic theatre to blow your mind away. With every performance unique, this is the most fun that I have had since my honeymoon night!