In the cozy Dolphin Theatre at the University of Western Australia, the University Dramatic Society put on a hilarious show. The Hill’s Heist follows a cop, Helen Bowen, and her accidental involvement in what is touted as “the biggest heist in Australia”. As the events unfold in Helen’s retelling of her part in the heist to co-worker and ex-partner in crime, Senior Sergeant Stewart Gilbert, the musical jumps between present day and the events leading up to the big heist finale on top of Mount Hill.
Xavier Hazard, the writer of The Hill’s Heist, is a very clever man. The script is comical genius with hilarious one-liners woven seamlessly throughout the musical. I almost missed a few of the jokes because I was too busy laughing at the previous ones! The story-line is intricate and complex—a little confusing at first but all is explained towards the end, leaving you shaking your head in awe at the thought process that went on to create such an intelligent and tricky heist.
The Hill’s Heist was directed by Alex Crouch, alongside assistant director Megan Rundle, and what a fantastic job they did. It is clear to see the amount of work they put in to produce such a smooth-running and wonderfully witty performance. The creation of such believable relationships between the characters through their interactions—verbally and non-verbally—is no small feat, so you can count me impressed just in that respect.
The musical numbers were a big hit, the lyrics ever so sharp and witty. Filled to the brim with tongue twisters, I was very impressed that the actors managed to get their heads and mouths around them. One of the highlights was the duet between Bowen and Gilbert towards the beginning that started off as your general musical number. Lyrics tossed back and forth between the two, until it rapidly transformed into a poem and then progressed into a rap battle?! Amazing, honestly.
Jazz is the best genre of music in my biased opinion. So, I was very glad to see that the music director, Isaac Reynolds and co-composer, Matthew Nixon, blessed my ears with plenty of it. Upbeat piano riffs combined with crooning saxophones set the scene before the red velvet curtain rose and continued throughout. A wonderfully composed musical, my hat is off to those two and the ensemble who made it happen.
And then we have the choreography—insert wow emoji here. The jazzy movements so typical of a chorus line aided in accentuating the comedic value of the musical. Never have I seen such impeccable high knees from a group of police officers bouncing onto the stage. It’s not every day that you see robbers, coppers and smugglers frolicking about while singing about various crimes and cocaine happenings. Jazz hands were aplenty.
The character profiles were something else entirely. Nora (oh Nora), was the perfect concoction of bogan and chatterbox, actress Molly Holohan portrayed her character with such conviction. Her thick skin and blasé attitude to the law assisted in heightening the humorous aspect of her character. Such nonchalance as to how her actions might affect others resulted in very witty remarks to the amusement of the audience.
The two police station clowns, Angela Clarke (played by Ruby Meegan), and Richard Fisher (played by Faisal Hazma), seemed to lack a sense of personal space. This caused much delight from the audience who witnessed uncomfortably long handshakes and too many unwanted cups of coffee. Succeeding in lightening the mood whenever things on stage got a bit too heavy, these two were one of the highlights of the show, leaving the audience in peals of laughter every time.
Helen Bowen, (played by Isobel Ferguson), was every bit awkward and gangly in certain situations as she was lovable, with an honest moral compass. Her singing voice was so clear and controlled—a pleasure to listen to.
Senior Sergeant Stewart Gilbert (played by Bayley Horne), was rude, blunt and oh so amusing. With the quintessential dry humour and outright frankness of a stereotypical cop, Gilbert had me laughing the whole way throughout.
Some other notable characters of the show were Barbara Candelabra (the name, I can’t) acted by Ciara Britz, a savvy journalist on heat who had the audience in stitches and Her/Hugo Monroe, played by Matthew Nixon, a “flaming homosexual” who dazzled the audience with an amazing drag show and cutting witticisms.
Most noteworthy though was the comedic timing made possible by the director and assistant director in tandem with the actors. It was impeccable and most certainly the highlight of the show. I’ve never seen a better example of it in a performance other than during The Hill’s Heist. Honestly, just go to the performance for that aspect only—I’m in admiration of them for it.
The last show for The Hill’s Heist is Saturday 18 May at 7:30pm @ Dolphin Theatre, UWA.
Tickets are available here.