Welcome to the pill-popping, 1958 landscape that is Soho’s Atlantic Club. The club is seedy, raunchy, and a magnet for hush-up deals. Worst of all, however, is the fierce competition to book a certain up-and-coming rock’n’roll star by the name of Silver Johnny. Playing now at the Perth Theatre at theSpace on North Bridge, MOJO revives the 1995 black comedy in an inventive and contemporary fashion.
Following the Ezra’s decapitation, the club’s previous owner and father to the impulsive and psychotic Baby, the club is transferred into Ezra’s competitor’s—and murderer’s—hands: Sam Ross. As tensions boil and threats are made, pandemonium is almost inevitable at the Atlantic Club, and no one is safe from betrayal.
With such an acclaimed script and a history of revivals, it is difficult to reproduce the show to its former glory. This is partly true for Grey Cardinal Studios’ reproduction as well. The show seems rushed at times to fit it into its hour and twenty minute time slot, and has an issue with slowly increasing the tension. Instead of a gradual incline towards the dramatic climax, MOJO seems to rest at an eternal high.
This high-energy, high stress performance is actually quite commendable. From the start, it is visible that the cast works masterfully together. They are a threatening ensemble, as chaotic and dangerous as they are funny. They quip around with each other and fall into drunken stupors. Overall, the cast both conjures the imagined glamour of the era and the decrepit poverty and escapism at the root of club nightlife.
However, although the cast’s quick-witted, energetic performance is enthralling, it is also somewhat one-noted and exhaustive. The show is written in a comedic, fast-paced manner, but that shouldn’t lead to a performance that stays at that level the entire time. There are few intimate and honest moments that aren’t rushed over by playing the moment off as chaos.
But, overall, what MOJO lacks in dramatic escalation, it makes up for in character realisation. Each actor is extremely in tune with their character’s backstory, their sense of humour, and how they interact with the cast as a whole or individually. The cast visibly understands the context and importance of MOJO as a story that can be retold throughout time, and astutely shared by them at this year’s Fringe.