Dripping in social satire, Vivid White reminds us of how ridiculous we all can be.
Vivid White – the most pure shade of white on Dulux’s whites and neutral swatch – is the colour Eddie Perfect painted his house. It also happens to be the title of his wicked, dark and uproarious new play.
Vivid White is a play that satirizes satire and examines social status through the glossy lens of Melbourne’s real estate market – amidst a backdrop of calamity. It explores the friendship of two couples as they try to outbid each other on the property of their dreams.
Eddie’s self-proclaimed obsession with real estate has little to do with property, and everything to do with the nation’s infatuation with home ownership. ‘I’m obsessed with their obsession,’ he declares.
After Melbourne’s overwhelming response to The Beast in 2013, Eddie says he felt prepared to ‘swing for the fences’ and take a risk on creating something quite bizarre. ‘This piece – over its life – has morphed into something pretty strange,’ he admits. ‘I want everything about this show to be kind of confusing.’
Many synergies helped Eddie develop this script over two years. Melbourne’s ‘Block Culture’ – where contestants and judges find themselves fuming over different grains of marble. The many auctions Eddie and his wife attended in the lead up to buying their own house; and the countless dinner parties – where renovations and tradespeople were the only topics of conversation on the menu – all became ‘grist for the mill’ in writing this play.
After fourteen years performing in and writing social satire, the Melbourne born and raised writer says he wanted Vivid White to be introspective. The conversation that kept coming up over and over again was whether satire could endorse change. ‘It seems satire has this great responsibility over any other genre to enhance its audience’s humanity,’ Eddie says. ‘That it should force people out of the theatre and into a more considerate way of living.
‘I wanted to have a discussion about satire. What responsibility the play has, what responsibility the audience has, and whether satire can actually affect change?…You look at the world now and ask, “Is this world even able to be satirised anymore?” Because it’s like a self-saucing pudding; a self-satirising world. What can you write that doesn’t just feel like the news?’ Nevertheless, Eddie has written a play unlike any other, set in a truly original landscape.
It’s not a pre-apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic world, the Melbourne playwright explains, but rather about the ‘changeover’ into apocalypse when the end of civilisation is imminent. ‘It’s the frog in the pot of water, where the heat is being turned up slowly and the frog’s not jumping out. That’s what the play is. These people are trying to stay as middle-class as they can, for as long as they can, irrespective of the apocalypse.’
Vivid White shines a floodlight on the complacency that runs rife in middle-class suburban Australia – where the needs of the environment or all of society are often supplanted by the needs of the individual. Director Dean Bryant, MTC Associate Director, says he’s not interested in shocking or insulting his audience, and would rather like to illuminate the social commentary in this narrative, ‘hold a mirror up to the audience and say, “we’re all in this together.”’ Above all, he’d like the audience to go on a roller-coaster ride with the cast.
This play presents a unique opportunity for Dean to translate something conceptually and technically perplexing into live performance. ‘Some of the ideas are really difficult to physically execute, but I’m excited by the challenge to deliver them.
‘I have the entire show teched and ready to go in my head,’ he says jokingly, knowing that some of the stage action will require a lot of technical finessing. ‘[Set designer] Owen [Phillips] and I have decided the best way for the weirdness to work, is to ground the story in reality. It’s very elegant at the start, so as the world falls apart, our visual world falls apart as well.’
Bursting with secrets and surprises, Vivid White is a play with a seven-person singing and instrument-playing cast. It’s a play specifically for Melbourne, Eddie says. ‘A complete reflection of what’s going on with me – in this city, which I love. ‘Carnage and mayhem,’ he says chuckling. ‘I can’t wait to get into production.’
See Vivid White at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner from 18 November to 23 December.