The West

Lucy Hopkins only made one mistake in her magnetic, witty Le Foulard - its fabulous first line: "You are about to receive something of a very high quality." There's no denying that what followed was. What she didn't know, however, is that the "about" was redundant; we'd already had "very high quality" twice that night in the Blue Room's Summer Nights series.

Never Mind the Monsters is the latest sleeper in a particularly narcoleptic Fringe Festival. Comprising two short plays about mental illness - Delusions of Doubt by Anna Bennetts and Les: Miserable by Alex Manfrin - Monsters is both funny (the latter especially so) and genuinely illuminating. Two outstanding performances, by Melanie Bennett and Summer Williams, as the personification of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression respectively, nailed these hard, often shrouded, subjects to the wall. I hope Monsters gets a full run soon.

I also hope Joe Bone brings his Bane trilogy back. If, as people tell me, the second instalment I saw at PICA is its weakest, the others must be a stampede of comedy bison. Bone's character, Bruce Bane, is a Noo Yawk hit man for hire, and his adventures in the mean streets of pulp and noir are screechingly funny and immaculately constructed.

Bone plays everybody (with stylish, understated guitar accompaniment from Ben Roe), and each of his characters, from a Polish gangster and his enormous Russian muscle to a kittenish receptionist, is precisely drawn and distinctive. The fact that Bone is a dead ringer for Perth Festival director Jonathan Holloway only adds to the fun.

Hopkins, a gamin in black tights and scarf of Isadora Duncan proportions is, like Joe Bone, a chameleon, flashing between four characters in Le Foulard with lightning speed.

The Artist, she of the "very high quality", is part Margaret Thatcher, part Penelope Keith, all ego monster. A flourish of the scarf and her alter egos materialise: the passionate Spanish Diva, the skittish English Wallflower, the enigmatic Lady in a Shawl. They are the teeth of the trap in which the Artist is snared.

Hopkins is a remarkable physical performer - at one time she leans towards us so far that it seems that gravity has failed - and yet her most excruciating comic weapons, almost Ricky Gervais-like in their devastating effectiveness- are stillness, silence and the smiles and tiny inflections that punctuate them.

Add wonderful, bizarre lines: "I hate you like the sweet, sweet, mango hates the avocado", "If you've nothing to say, listen to what other people say and say that", and gleefully destroyed songs (La Vie en Rose, I Will Survive) and Hopkins delivers exactly what she promised in that ill-informed first line of hers.

All shows end today.

The West Australian

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