It’s a busy time in Sydney at the moment: the Sydney Festival is on, Short and Sweet Festival is on.. and theatre folk (goers and makers of theatre) are still crawling out of Christmas like the munchkin children, dusting sleep from their eyes and perhaps the economic crisis has slowed the willy-nilly spending habits of the more conservative theatre goer. Hammerhead (is Dead) would have a lot to compete with if Nick Coyle (writer and director) didn’t have a giggling support group of twenty-somethings ready to enjoy his latest creation currently showing at The Stables.’

Hammerhead (is dead) is a story of Hammerhead (a person) who is one day, hit in the head by a hammer (explaining the obvious, aren’t I?), thrown/dropped by his sister. In the moments that pass before he dies, time expands into imagination or memory into fantastical and absurd places with wildly charismatic and quick witted characters that explode into his life, trapping, rebutting, leading and rattling Hammerhead through dialogue and adventure. In a kalaidascope of language sound and light, these characters bounce around in their own eccentricity, yelling/squealing manical poetic yet meaningful things and Hammerhead follows along as an accidental accomplice and confidant.

The first section Hammerhead (Brynn Loosemore) is found on a beach by Jones (Charlie Garber), a beachcomber looking for a lost compass and is quickly taken home to his imaginary friend/slave/ghost-whisperer/warlock/nemesis/flatmate Tooth. The second section Hammerhead encounters Mindy (Anna Houston) a wild and brash young woman full of adventure who can do amazing things “with nothing- with air”. His third encounter involves a Monkey Skeleton (Gus Murray), his fourth with Denny a soldier (Gus Murray), his fifth with Nubbins a bizarre and hungry dog (Anna Houston). Hammerhead, though central sits apart from these adventures partially complying and observing the world of distortions that swirl around him. The performances are committed and focussed and look like fun for all the actors whom transmogrify from one scene to the next supported by lighting design by Brent Forstrom-Jones, Set Design by Colleen Reeks and (the most impressive of all) costuming by Amanda Testa.

There is a lot said in this play: both in the script and in the metaphor and there is no doubt that Nick Coyle is a passionate and creative writer full of interesting things to say. I found some of it difficult to untangle what was being said due to the rapid fire of the characters delivery and tangential ranting. Pace was a problem, with long sections which seemed a little overwritten and other sections which could have done with some sturdy dramaturgy. Essentially there is a poignant set of questions being asked and that is the question of death and (of course the companion question) the question of life and how to live it. Coupled with these are questions of life direction and the value of time which fill out our hero’s inexorable journey.

At times the relevance of the characters, and the relevance of the specific destinations in the journey, weren’t so clear: and the choice is either to accept it for what it is and enjoy (quick-witted undergraduate banter) or to tune out (because it is quick-witted undergraduate banter). However, I did chuckle quite frequently at the clever observations that wiggled their way out of the conversations and also enjoyed Hammerhead’s journey: which felt like a spinning top of absurdism. What may be missing though is some sincere emotional content: as the profound and beautiful moments are sometimes cluttered by clever and comic quips. Comedy is often most potent when balanced with intense or poignant questions: which this script certainly has but at times, but often the moment was cut in half too quickly by a joke, or a stylistic flourish for us to really care about any of the characters, or to truly connect to the moments (which had they been given some of the gravitas they deserved) truly would have “bruised you as it passed”.

Nonetheless, this team of bright and energetic artists deserve great applause for a unique and brave contribution to Sydney’s theatrical landscape.