The Last Word

The Last Word

The Last Word Rating

★★★★★

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3

With an eye-catching poster featuring an image of the star throwing a bunch of SCRABBLE tiles off the board into the air, one could be forgiven, walking into the Butterfly Club, on a cold Melbourne night, that the show, like the poster, may just be a bunch of ideas and various tiles haphazardly thrown together in the hopes a decent score is found. All doubt was removed at the second “The Last Word” star and creator slinked onto the stage.

It’s not often a performer that you are not familiar with, takes a stage, and with literally just a raise of their eyebrow has you giggling and instantly at ease, this is however the feat that Imogen Whittaker managed in her sold-out Monday night performance.

With nothing but a microphone and a piano, along with a whole bunch of therapy behind her (though, as Imogen tells us, she was dumped by her therapist- ouch!), she launches into song and starts the show. Within just a few bars, you know you are in the hands of an up-and-coming pro, instantly the clever, humorous wording has you thinking you are in the hands of a star like Tim Minchin. The music and lyrics already feel like they belong in a smash hit like Matilda (we won’t talk about Ground Hog Day), and the audience takes an audible sigh of relief knowing that the hard slog to get out on a wet Monday will well and truly be worth it.

Through the next 50 minutes or so, Imogen Whittaker draws you in with her charm, honesty, and a little self-deprecation. Managing to tell stories that are uniquely her own, though with wording and feelings that like today’s Astrology Star Sign forecast, the audience could easily interpret to be current and applicable to themselves.

A particular favorite was – Last First Date
“I think I’m going to get RSI
From how many times
I swipe left and right
And put on my nice shoes and dress
Just to be in evidently unimpressed”

A hilarious ode to the pitfalls of dating and kind of a Groundhog Day (not the Minchin one- no, this one wasn’t tedious) of first date after first date after first date and how they all start to feel the same, the guys all sadly similarly bland and not right and how Imogen wishes that she could find the one and have her “Last First date”. Knowing laughter from the audience and friends nudging each other in agreeance throughout.

The Last Word

Other stories of the wacky world of dating are put into song- like the one about the guy she dated for some time, to then find out the reason he was emotionally unavailable was that he was married and bumped into him and his wife at a country bakery where he introduced her as “a family friend”. Awkward. But hey, this ‘ACE’ of a guy brought her a piano- so I guess he is ok?

Another about a failed ‘showmance’ in what we are repeatedly and cheekily told was “the worst production of FAME ever staged” that leaves Imogen wondering if she was in love with the actor or the character. Then there is “Drunk Call”, awaiting an ex who has moved on, but she “Leaves my phone on even though I know you are out, in case I’m the one you‘re still thinking about”.

With brilliant lyrics and music that have you reminded of Missy Higgins, Musicals like Once and Matilda, and an instantly likable personality that draws you in, this was a joyous night at the theatre held by a performer who knows her talent and leans into it with grace and confidence. Despite some sound issues, from the microphone not sounding on for the first number to then barely being able to hear the wonderful piano playing for a few numbers, this is a highly recommended show.

“The Last Word” like the show’s promo poster, is a collection of letters and words of Imogen Whittaker’s experiences. She played a brilliant game and clearly won with the tiles of life that have been dealt her way.

I can’t help but feel that she still holds her ‘Q’ and ‘Z’ close to her chest. But I tell you, when she does decide to put them on the table, not only will she win again, she will score big and it will be one of the most exciting games. This is not Imogen’s last word, and I eagerly await her next.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan Rating

★★★★★

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3

With the title of “Rootless Cosmopolitans”, I half expected to turn up and see Carrie and the gals from “Sex and the City” sipping cocktails and comparing notes on the past week’s romantic adventures. Silly me. It refers to Stalin’s euphemistic pejorative for ‘Jew’. This was a play with far more to say on issues, such as terrorism, genocide, identity, war, and conflict.

Like the aforementioned television show however, despite its darker subject matter, Monstrous Productions, presenting Ron Elisha’s challenging play, manages to keep the laughs a plenty, with many a cultural joke that even Gentiles, like myself, easily relate to. Lured into a false sense of ‘lightness’ this makes the audio of the October 7, 2023 attacks when the characters are confronted with the news of the terrorism, hit extra hard. Taking both the atmosphere on stage and in the audience to a palpable knot in the throat.

Set in the offices of an internationally respected theatre company, Artistic Director Ira Brot, who like all of us in the arts, lives in fear of something he may say publicly via socials getting misunderstood and the catchword of the day “cancel culture” being firmly placed in his direction, navigates through an ever-changing world.

Where diversity and ticking boxes are placed ahead of vision, where Jewish people have been a persecuted minority, to on face value at least, overcoming adversity, to then be thrown back into depths of terror and racism. The weight of Ira’s people’s history, hanging forever over his past present, and future, is made even more apparent with the ghost of his mother, consistently in his ear.

Despite taking a small, struggling theatre company to the international stage in 6 short years, the moment the board feels the “optics” of having a Jewish Artistic director at the helm is no longer good for business, Ira Brot is thrown into a world where he strains to find his place. All the while his marriage breaks down, his assistant director uses his proxy vote to shoo him out, and he questions his privilege.

Packed into 90 minutes, “Rootless Cosmopolitans” bounds out of the gate strong, quick with the laughs, and instantly grabs our attention with fantastic acting, most notably from Babs McMillan, who steals the show as the ghost of Ira’s ever-quipping-dead mother, and a razor-sharp script. Despite the strong start, around the middle the script and direction felt a little lost, perhaps this was a choice to shadow the emotions, Ira, anchoring the story with an even and sympathetic performance by Anton Berezin, is facing.

With great turns from Seon Williams as Ira’s assistant and then the Artistic Director of her own company, and Emily Joy playing both board member and Ira’s wife, the play finds its feet again and gallops towards the finish line.

What made this a good night at the theatre, was how given the subject matter and the world we live in, it never felt preachy. It posed many questions and didn’t always tell us the answers. Like all the characters, the audience is left questioning our own privilege, struggles, and curious as to what boxes we tick and should the optics’ change, as it did for Ira, where would we find our place in this constantly changing, ever-scrutinizing world.

Review 3.5 Pineapples

35 Pineapples Ben Murphy

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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