Eddie Perfect On Killing Cows And Suffocating The Audience

15 July 2016 | 3:52 pm | Danielle O'Donohue

"I mean there's vomit flying everywhere."

Faced with a dining room full of dinner guests, a live cow and no butcher, would you be able to do what it takes to make your nose-to-tail dinner experience a success?

Many of us will never have to face actually killing our own dinner, but it's an idea that intrigues Eddie Perfect — entertainment's man of the moment (if by 'moment' we're talking about almost the last ten years).

The Beast explores the idea of how middle-class progressives would cope if thrown into a situation well outside their perfectly insulated comfort zones.

Perfect says he's taking his scorching brand of humour and turning it on himself as much as anyone. For fans who know Perfect solely through his acting work on Channel Ten's Offspring, this could be a rather illuminating theatrical experience.

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"I see myself in pretty much all the characters. But it's not just a case of, 'Aren't we wankers?'" Perfect explains.

"For satire to work the room has got to be airtight. You can't leave a hole where any member of the audience can get out."

"For satire to work the room has got to be airtight. You can't leave a hole where any member of the audience can get out. The problem with the play, and myself included, is we live in a reality where we have contradictory values. There's a massive gap between who we are and who we think we are.

"Once a cause is seen to be good, sometimes people latch on to that cause not to do good, but to be seen to be doing good. It's some kind of status credit they can use to elevate themselves. With this play we wanted to force a group of characters into a corner where they could not hold the lie any longer."

Pushed into a corner, The Beast's characters resort to their most despicable selves. A prospect Perfect is relishing in the rehearsal room because, unlike the play's debut with Melbourne Theatre Company in 2013, this time Perfect gets to play one of the despicable dinner guests.

"I'm getting my comedic arse handed to me every day," Perfect says of the rehearsal process.

"Writing and performing is almost impossible when you're first doing a play. When we did it the first time around you still have to worry about knocking it into shape and you need to be able to see what's working and what's not working to be able to leave the rehearsal room and do rewrites and come back.

"The first time around the script was never sacrosanct. It was always under, one word would be attack, another would be review," Perfect says wryly.

This time around the script is virtually locked, so Perfect can concentrate on fleshing out his character while enjoying the chance to work in an ensemble cast that includes Alison Bell, Christie Whelan-Browne, Toby Truslove and Peter Houghton.

"The fact is, we love it," Perfect says of the opportunity to put these characters' worst selves on show.

"It's like a kind of horror/pantomime. Everyone gets one despicable moment at least, if not several. I mean there's vomit flying everywhere. It's completely black and disgusting and we enjoy every minute of it."