Theatre review: The Biggest

By Paul Simei-Barton

Playwright Jamie McCaskill takes audiences on an entertaining journey into the heart of male identity in The Biggest.
Playwright Jamie McCaskill takes audiences on an entertaining journey into the heart of male identity in The Biggest.

A bunch of Kiwi old-timers shooting the breeze in a small town pub doesn't sound like much of a premise but in the hands of playwright Jamie McCaskill it becomes a springboard for a highly entertaining journey into the heart of male identity.

Not since the glory days of Barry Crump has there been such a heartfelt tribute to the easy-going enigma that is the Kiwi bloke. The authenticity of the dialogue leaves little doubt the writer has a deep familiarity with the alcohol-fuelled ambiance of the hometown pub.

The dialogue is quick-witted, boastful, casually aggressive and at times brutally insulting with forthright exchanges on a wide range of topics including Maori identity, gender politics, mortality, marriage and the meaning of life.

The way it addresses the universal yearning for a sense of belonging is what makes the play so appealing. The bond which holds mates together is celebrated for the way it creates an enduring community untouched by material success, misfortune or the vagaries of fashion.

The story, hanging on the outcome of a fishing contest, is deceptively complex with plenty of dramatic jolts as the superb cast breath life into a bunch of hard case characters.

No one has a better handle on the intricacies of Kiwi vernacular than Jim Moriarty and the energetic bluster of his character is neatly balanced by Apirana Taylor playing a laconic bar-room philosopher.

Tim Gordon is a suitably rugged individualist and Peter Hambleton, playing a bigoted misery-guts, shows that he also has a deep longing for community. Nic Dunbar is electrifying as the provocative outsider trampling all over the unwritten rules that put limits on the abuse you can dish out to a mate and as the only female Kali Kopae has her hands full putting the men straight.

What: The Biggest
Where: Q Theatre, Rangatira to March 19

- NZ Herald

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