‘Werewolf Priest! The Lamentable Ballad of Father Hank Grimby’

‘Werewolf Priest! The Lamentable Ballad of Father Hank Grimby’ was created by Levon J Polinelli, this being his first major theatrical piece as a writer/dramaturg/producer. After packing out the Blue Room Theatre last year, it returns to the stage with a new team.

Aged nineteen, Levon directed a trailer for a bogus Bollywood Kung Fu film, which became a finalist in Margaret and David’s ‘At the Movies’ 25th Anniversary trailer competition.

This riotous 150-minute show runs each night at 7.30 pm until the 21st March in The Nexus Theatre, Murdoch University, near car park 3.

Ally Snell’s set is a dark, bleak forest in Huntersville in 1880. The music in the background is Credence Clearwater’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’, a hint as to the wacky humour to come. Set builder, John King has brought Ally’s creations to life. Many of the sets were flies, operated by Tay Broadley.

The superb costumes were created by Melanie Buchanan, and had lots of little extras and trims to ensure an authentic look.

The forest scene was lit by LEDs at ground level, emphasising the creepy effect. Good lighting design by Scott McArdle, with precision timing by operator, Katie Southwell. The quality soundscape had a huge amount of work put into it by Jess Serio, with crisp lively effects.

The excellent fight scene was most convincing, congrats to Launcelot Ronzan.

         There is a full moon, and a young priest, Father Hank Grimby (Thomas Dimmick) is walking through the woods, when a bloodcurdling sound is heard. In terror he flees, but is caught and mauled by a creature.

        When he awakes, he finds himself in the home of Mayor Gainsborough (Timothy Brain) being attended by the maid (Cat Maree Perez), and more affectionately by the Mayor’s beautiful young daughter, Brooke (Harriet Fettis). His scars are being examined by anatomy researcher and family quack, Dr Talbot (Jason Dohle).

       After a worldwide search, the Mayor has found a suitable husband for Brooke, explorer George Waggner (Joshua Towns), a legend in his own mind. This rumbustious and loud swashbuckler loves to tell stories of his journeys around the planet and of his many passionate affairs on the way. However, Brooke is in love with another, will she really have to marry this braggart? On his arrival in the village, George meets yokel Farmer Brandybuck (Michael Casas with a hilarious accent, coached by Shona Beringer), Missus Hornblower (Kiah Van Vlijmen) and Tabitha (Bella Doyle), and foolishly asks them for directions.

       When a local farmer (Andrew Dawson), his wife (Claire Tebbutt) and daughters (Shannon Rogers, Maggie Clark) are all attacked by the illusive werewolf, bold George takes on the help of the village yokel, Tomas (Phillip Hutton) and seeks revenge  – and a replacement girlfriend, the innocent Angelique (Tijana Simic).

Directing his first major production is Keaton Howe. Keaton has done a wonderful job; the actors were charged up and perfectly cast. I first saw this play at the Blue Room and the more intimate setting worked better, as the scene changes were quicker – less distance to carry the furniture – and the actors kept up the pace better in the changes. The Murdoch Workshop may have worked better in some ways, but of course does not have the technical qualities.

The acting was very good, with a perfect, straight delivery; but at times a hammier, tongue in cheek genre could have been better. Some of the lines had double-entendres, or were designed to have pauses mid-sentence, to hint at another meaning, this was often missed. Nevertheless, the overall effect was creepy and frightening; the performances were assured and the singing melodious. Even the gory scenes brought a laugh. People squirmed a little, but there was always a smile at the end.

Levon J Polinelli’s clever lyrics were comical, with subtle hints at famous films and musicals. Musical director and composer, Ash Gibson Greig, has blended into his score some special sound effects. Hats off to Harriet – a divine voice – and to Joshua, whose singing and musical performance was well on the way to that of Hugh Jackman.

An all-round night of entertainment, with quality singing, horror and visual excitement.

A really good night at the theatre, presented by a talented team.