Review: Grand Theft Theatre

A love letter to the power of theatre

theatre review (adelaide) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Grand Theft Theatre photo by Roy Van Der Vegt
Published 05 Mar 2024

“This is our attempt to take stock of a range of pivotal theatre moments that we’ve taken part in,” David Williams announces as Grand Theft Theatre begins. It is not, he warns, a comprehensive catalogue of theatre’s greatest hits, “rather an idiosyncratic selection of memories.”

Over the next two hours, he and the five members of Pony Cam swing rapidly between pathos, horror and comedy as they bring to life some of the performances that have impacted them most, from seeing Briefs as a 12-year-old to watching in shock at the notoriously visceral onstage drama of Thyestes. Several recreations draw knowing chuckles but it matters little if we’re familiar with the source material – the effect of the performances is what matters.

At its best, Grand Theft Theatre doesn’t merely re-enact the action onstage but takes us right into the performers’ mental state, and like any good storytellers they are happy to lean into the fallibility of memory. Many of these moments persist because they were shocking at the time, and a graphic description of the performer’s pulsating anus in Charles Horse Lays An Egg (still one of the most memorable Fringe shows this reviewer has ever seen) is too much for several silver-haired audience members, who walk out mid-scene.

In truth, Grand Theft Theatre won’t be for everyone. Shock factor aside, the format means that it is unashamedly indulgent, but that’s the point. If a love letter to theatre is not deeply personal, then why bother? The joy and passion carried in these memories is evident in the delivery of each sketch, though the running time of almost two hours is a reminder that even the most passionate creator needs good editing.


Grand Theft Theatre, Latvian Hall ‘Tālava’, until 11 March