By Tamara Asmar
Old Fitzroy Hotel Theatre, Sydney
Until January 22
REVIEW BY BRENDAN DOYLE
The Old Fitzroy in Sydney has been the home of much original, thought-provoking and affordable new Australian theatre. Ninja is yet another shoestring indie production that is more entertaining than many a mainstream show.
Written by Tamara Asmar, a very promising young playwright, Ninja is a comedy-drama about two 13-year-old best school buddies, Horace and Mortimer, who have made a pact to become professional ninjas by the end of the school holidays.
As the play opens, Horace (Oliver Torr) and Mort (Matt Zeremes) are going through their ninja moves in Matt's lounge room. It's a very funny routine. But we soon find out that the boys have only two weeks to fulfil their dream before Mort leaves for New Zealand. So it all becomes a test of their enduring friendship, especially as they get little encouragement from Mort's sister Jemima (Felicity Hopkins) or her Indonesian friend Moonrise (Amanda Mitchell).
After surviving Ninja boot camp, flower-pressing and guinea-pig kidnapping, the boys must succeed in one final and devastating act of ninja stealth. One stormy night in the suburbs, however, they make a terrible mistake and incur the wrath of shadowy ASIO operative Mr I (Ashley Lyons), who comes to interrogate the hapless Horace about Moonrise's uncle.
This unexpected plot development doesn't seem at all out of place in this free-wheeling, very theatrical romp that draws on popular culture, television and literature with equal abandon, but still manages to be touching as it ranges through many moods, from childish fun and satire to pathos and black humour.
Ninja is about growing up, about friendship, about gender roles, and about boys trying to be invincible and invulnerable, but finally learning that it's impossible. The girls help them realise that feelings and relationships, more than ninja skills, will see them through.
This world premiere production is admirably directed by actor Ryan Johnson, whose credits include The Secret Life of Us.
Ninja is the fifth play from Cake Productions (Oliver Torr and Matt Zeremes), which was awarded Best Fringe Theatre 2003 by the Sydney Morning Herald for This is Our Youth.
From Green Left Weekly, January 19, 2005.
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