The Pink Hammer
Direction: Conrad Newport (written by Michele Amas)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (September 7 – October 5)
The Pink Hammer is simply not very good. It pains me to say it as I’ve spent the last two or three years talking up almost everything I’ve seen at Circa (indeed the standard is high). But this is a one-dimensional script of bleating caricatures and features the laziest direction since George W. Bush said, “aim over there eh…”
A talented cast of actors is caught squirming in these silly, OTT characters – the flirty backpacker type (Harriet Prebble as Siobhan), the uptight wallflower (Anne Chamberlain Louise), the know-it-all counsellor with a messy private life (Bronywyn Turei as Annabel), a not quite toxic, stubborn rugby/racing/beer builder (Alex Greig as Woody) and a horse-breeder with terminal cancer (Ginette McDonald as Helen; actually McDonald is the only portrait of restraint here. Hers is the only character with anything resembling depth – or for that matter something actually ‘real’, believable). The “meet-cute” is that the four women have signed up to the titular workshop, a building course for women. They find the home-owner (Woody) not happy, unaware that his estranged wife was offering this course. He is grudgingly subbed in. And jokes as subtle as the worst moments on Mrs Brown’s Boys start to fly. Quick, duck!
It’s a premise that could only ever sustain a broad farce. And though we have dumb innuendo and instantly overly familiar dialogue this still aims for wholesome, tender and thought-provoking.
It’s not hideous to sit through. Just a bit dumb.
There are moments. Attempts. No one quite embarrasses themselves but it’s just all a bit daft.
And I can’t have been the only person thinking this on opening night. A friend in the crowd called out to me at half-time, “how are you enjoying the panto?” Surely one of theatre reviewing’s cruelest barbs. Even when uttered at a panto.
The Pink Hammer does have a musical number, of sorts, and it’s actually the tenderest moment. It allows for something nearly moving to take place toward the end despite the clangingly unsubtle and paint-by-numbers foreshadowing. So it’s almost by fluke, and certainly by virtue of Prebble’s great delivery in that moment.
But saying something is ‘good’ isn’t ever good enough. And this is only ever occasionally quite-good. And nowhere near often enough. A real dip in quality for Circa – and despite the usual great set (John Hodgkins in this case) and overall production design it just doesn’t really mean anything near what it’s trying to mean. This doesn’t live, it doesn’t deliver, it dies because of the script. And the almost profound lack of dynamics in delivering. People just walk on and off and say lines. Some fold their arms to show they are vexed or about to mean something.
We’re supposed to believe the flimsiest of narratives just suddenly gives way to a whole layer of thematic meaning about connection?
This was a dud.