SET: The Play

Trent Baines, Scott Grimley and Lauren Clair.. Photo: Kent Mathews.

Parade Theatre, May 1

Psst. Yes, you: he boys and girls in blue. If one of the writers of this play mysteriously disappears don’t let the audience leave town. The culprit will be someone furious at the squandering of such a good premise who’s tied a dramatist to a chair to force a rewrite. Good ideas, after all, are rare, like fictitious cops who don’t wear trench coats.

Having had us giggling quite happily until intermission SET: The Play returned to sink with barely a trace of mirth in an ocean of inanity. If there is a lesson it presumably is to beware of plays penned by multiple writers.

Sam Atwell is not the first to conceive of a comic who-dunnit set within a soap opera, but he did invent a tempting assortment of comic characters (with input from Nick Bolton). He then decided to involve his fellow Home And Away writers: Romina Accurso, Louise Bowes, Jenny Lewis and Gary Sewell. The real who-dunnit is who is guilty of the blather that unfolds after the break.

What a wasted opportunity when the 13-strong cast was capable of bringing such deliciously satirical characters to life as the I’m-so-luscious-I-could-eat-myself Delilah DeRouge, a reporter for a show-biz gossip program, played with relish by Madeleine Chaplain. Then there is Kirra Star, a coke-snorting, talent-bedding publicist, savoured by Lauren Clair.

Atwell, who also directs, uses the appealing device of having the actors sitting watching the action unfold from the perimeter of the stage. The best material sends up the soapie, with its precious stars and pseudo-intellectual director (Jonathan Lane). Everyone has a reason for killing the self-obsessed hunk, Fin Jones (Trent Baines), but from the moment the show mutates into a police spoof it degenerates until the laughs come as thickly as they do when your dog dies. A return to Summer Bay and a rethink may be in order.

Until May 18.