The Truants

The Truants

Kate Weinberg

Bloomsbury 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5266-0012-7


 

Whether it’s as basic as skipping school or smoking a bit of pot in the toilets to theft or worse; doing the wrong thing can be alluring. One of the questions Kate Weinberg asks in her novel The Truants is, “could you be driven to kill someone?”

Following the move to University in Norfolk, Jess discovers a sense of freedom for the first time. Being the middle of five children, she’s always felt as if she were invisible, and has mastered the art of being unseen. Bookish and overshadowed by her siblings, university is Jess’s chance to shine. However, after being booted from Lorna’s class “The Devil has the Best Lines” during fresher’s week, Jess feels her world tumbling around her. After a rather intense enquiry to tutor herself, Jess finds herself enrolled in Lorna’s Agatha Christie course instead and is faced with her first challenge: securing the reading-list without blowing her meagre budget. And is it really theft if you plan on returning it? Drawn in by Lorna’s larger-than-life presence and quickly becoming a favourite, it’s almost as if Jess is being seen for the first time.

Having befriended Georgie, Jess finds a social life-line at uni, someone to force her towards the fun things living on campus has to offer. Georgie is wild-willed and Jess revels in her company, forming close bonds with not only Georgie but her mysterious South African boyfriend Alec, who drives a hearse and always thinks up the greatest schemes. Joined by second year geology student Nick, the group are almost inseparable. That is, until it all goes terribly wrong.

With Georgie’s growing drug problem and the rising tensions in South Africa, it seems the fun is over. Jess’s world is about to come crashing down and with no-one else to turn to but Lorna, will it all have been worth it? And who is Lorna, really? Why did she leave her esteemed position at Cambridge to work at Norfolk?

The thrill of doing wrong – and getting away with it – is ultimately captured in Weinberg’s novel as the reader delves into the increasingly complicated lives of Lorna, Alec, and Jess. With authentic, complex characters guaranteed to draw you in and extraordinary wit Weinberg’s writing is a refreshing look at the Christie mystery and the power a charismatic speaker has to influence the lives of those around them. Filled with secrets and mysteries to be solved, The Truants is enthralling. Dealing with a range of issues facing young people including drug abuse, mental and sexual health, and relationships, The Truants is perfect for anyone fifteen and up.

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Honest

‘I think I may be a bit of a cunt.’

That’s the line the play begins with, punctuated (as if that were necessary) by performer Matt Hyde downing a shot and slamming it on the bar. From that moment, you know this will be an immersive and challenging experience.

In the hands of a less able actor, the play’s sole character, Dave, would be a simply unpleasant character. Hyde manages to ensure that as angry and bitter Dave may become, he is always a character with a moral compass. Whether that be his assiduous maintenance of the truth to an individual feeling remorse for his actions, Dave is too prickly to be deeply liked and too real to be disliked.

When the play opened, I caught sight of Hyde at the bar, slightly dishevelled, nursing a beer, and checking his phone. I didn’t know when he’d arrived. He was just there. This blurring of lines is fundamental to the play as Hyde has Dave do a shot with an audience member and lock eyes with other members of the audience as he delivers diatribes against dishonesty and ignorance. The front bar of Treasury 1860 proves a perfect venue as Dave could easily be a tired, unhappy government worker winding down after work – however no such person would likely be able to hold the audience in rapture like Matt Hyde does.

Across an hour, we witness the breaking down of one man in such a way as to offer insight on the nature of masculinity, alcoholism, mental health, and a host of other crucial subjects. There’s still humour to be had in the play but it feels utterly organic and never just an attempt to lighten the mood. It is just the fact that humour can be found in almost any place and the writing by DC Moore and the acting by Matt Hyde ensure that the play never reaches too far for humour, it is just balanced to perfection.

It may hit a little too close to home for those who have witnessed the terrible toll alcoholism and mental illness can take on a person but even to such people, this play will likely offer some additional insight.

It’s not an easy play but it’s not trying to be – and nor should it. Hyde’s absolute commitment to the role keeps the whole room on edge and hanging on his every word as he sells the experience to perfection. Audience members will almost certainly feel that uncertainty and concern that comes from meeting someone like his character Dave. As Dave orders another shot to hammer home a point or just as he moves from one topic to another, the actor seems gone, replaced by the character.

Uncomfortable in all the right ways, funny in unexpected ways, and fundamentally honest, this play does exactly what it sets out to do.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4.5 stars

Honest is playing at Treasury 1860 February 26-28, and March 2-3. Tickets available here.

Alcohol is Good for You Too – Sam Kissajukian

First thing’s first. Alcohol is Good for You Too is one of the best stand-up comedy shows I’ve seen in my life. It’s just unceasingly funny. Sam Kissajukian starts strong right out of the gate and never lets up. Covering things as varied as the true and chilling face of God to what Kissajukian gets up to with onions (don’t ask) and stopping along the way to acknowledge the evolutionary failure that is sausage dogs (sorry).

Kissajukian doesn’t tell jokes so much as take the audience on a long and winding path of comedy through uncharted (in some cases, perhaps best left uncharted) territories in which every observation is funnier than most punchlines could ever hope to be. The most talented Australian comedian I’ve ever seen, Kissajukian’s style and quality is not unlike an Australian Dylan Moran. A real highlight of current stand-up comedy in this country.

He had the entirety of the Producers’ garden in rapturous laughter throughout his 55-minute set. It’s a shame it’s as short as it is, but not a single minute of its length is wasted.

Kissajukian us able to engage with the audience and even when the audience is not particularly cooperative (as happened on a couple of occasions) he is able to make something else of the situation and it is apparently impossible to turn him from his determination to keep the audience in fits of laughter.

Fortunately, Sam Kissajukian’s Alcohol is Good for You Too is playing until the end of the Fringe. Go, and you too, could see the horrifying face of God.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4½ stars.

Alcohol is Good For You Too – Sam Kissajukian is playing at the Producers in the garden until March 18 (except Mondays). Tickets available here.