We welcome Robert Housley to the contributor team at Noted. Robert brings a breadth of arts experience to his reviews drawn from decades managing performing arts venues, working as arts editor of Perth’s long defunct Daily News and writing about the arts in London, Cape Town and Amsterdam. I hope you enjoy his insights into the Perth arts scene.

There is room for improvement in all of our lives, such is the flawed nature of humanity. The level to which we to commit to improving ourselves and the world around us and how we define improvement is the nub of this offering from The Last Great Hunt writer/director Jeffrey Jay Fowler.

Improvement_Club_  Frieda Lee, Chris Isaacs, Arielle Gray, Mararo Wangai, Gita Bezard. Photo credit Daniel James Grant-09.jpg
Frieda Lee, Chris Isaacs, Arielle Gray, Mararo Wangai, Gita Bezard. Photo Daniel James Grant

This five-hander is essentially an ensemble piece but its obtuse, often hilarious narrative for the most part follows the trajectory of the neurotic central character Adam (Chris Isaacs).

His desire for improvement – and need of company and relevance – results in him and his reluctant work colleagues starting their own club. Its premise of perpetual improvement compounds to ludicrous lengths in what is only the first incarnation of the eponymous club in the title.

This play has a Ground Hog Day quality to it, wherein the storyline of a club centred on improvement is reinvented on multiple occasions but with vastly different tenets driving membership. And when the human ego and the place in the world of straight white males are given both a metaphorical and literal scragging, the layers of this dense piece of writing deepen. But Fowler’s slick and at times stylised direction – the show-stopping ‘slow mo’ scene is as filmic as it is theatrical – and the punchy performances from the cast ensure the audience is taken along for the ride.

Isaacs is exceptional in the succulent lead role and ably supported by the pointedly multicultural ensemble Gita Bezard, Arielle Gray, Frieda Lee and Mararo Wangai. Sally Phipps’ minimalist set of textured panels enabled and enhanced the show’s workability in the black box theatre situated in the State Theatre Centre’s basement . Joe Lui’s soundscape punctuated the narrative with both purpose and subtlety though the sound levels drowned out the actors occasionally on the night I saw the show.

Improvement Club is performed daily at 7.30pm until Saturday 7 July.