Eat Your Heart Out: Lack of venues forces theatre from the west to move north


    First day of rehearsals for The Shift Theatre’s latest production Eat Your Heart Out, premiering this month at Carlton’s La Mama, takes place in the cavernous top floor room of a building situated on the shore of Albert Park Lake.

    As everyone gets to work, behind them through great panes of glass the view unfolds with oak trees and yacht masts, spinnakers and jibs. Beyond the tranquil waters and the golf course are the stylish apartment towers and office buildings of Queens Road and St Kilda Road. 

    The whole scene speaks of order, privilege and money. Perhaps no better place, then, to bring to life Eleanor and Beatrice, two very well-to-do sisters whose weekly lunches are now held under the shadow cast by their mother’s death.

    Sounds bleak? Not quite.

    “It’s a fun comedy with elements of farce,” says Peter Houghton, the play’s director. “It’s about money and what it can do to you, it critiques the super privileged, hyper consumerism without being too obvious about it.”

    The two characters it seems, have never had to deal with anything too difficult in their lives.

    “Yet because of their mother’s death they’ve now stumbled into our world, with all its complications, and they’re not very well resourced to do that,” Peter says. “Their money can’t help them. For the first time they’ve realised there might be more to life than sitting in restaurants wondering how you want the fish done.”

    While the audience is invited to laugh at these “slightly dreadful people,” Peter says, with their virtue signalling and performative gestures towards the issues of the day, it is also left to empathise with their suffering and confusion.

    “They can’t be too unlike us,” says Helen Hopkins, who plays Beatrice. “We want the audience to feel sorry for them. There’s a lot about life they genuinely just don’t get. They think they’re doing good but it’s done in a very flawed way.

    “These are very recognisable people. The sisters do what they do to make themselves feel better. And perhaps we all do a bit of that. And if so, how judgemental of others can we be? We can laugh at them but then say ‘yeah, that’s me.’” 

    “They’re basically puffed-up, extended versions of ourselves,” Peter adds, with a laugh. 

    However, Eat Your Heart Out does a lot more than chronicle our times.

    “There aren’t many references that will date quickly,” Peter explains. “It’s more about home truths. The way we connect or don’t connect with family. How we live in a post-religion world. What’s life all about? Being the next in line to die.”

    Home truths these two women confront through the prism of self-interest. 

    Based in the inner west, The Shift Theatre has been staging independent productions for over fifteen years. Helen, who is also the co-founder, would like to do more shows this side of town.

    “The immediacy of theatre can’t be beaten. Sitting there with a whole lot of other people watching a live performance is a communal experience and so we try to do stuff in the west. We staged a play last year in Footscray, but affordable venues that seat enough people is an issue.”

    Peter thinks the west is “confident enough now to have its own dedicated drama theatre,” adding: “People want what Shakespeare called the ‘rough magic’ of theatre, the actors’ medium, without perhaps the same polish of a Netflix show.”

    Go and enjoy this play that interrogates the lives of the Eleanors and Beatrices of this world, whether they live on the other side of the river… or a little bit closer to home. 

    Eat Your Heart Out at La Mama Theatre
    March 6–17.
    Bookings: EAT YOUR HEART OUT – La Mama Theatre

    Your feedback

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here



    Latest Articles

    Latest edition

    #98 July 2024

    Recent editions


    Become a supporter

    The Westsider is run on the power of volunteers. Your contribution directly contributes to ensuring we can continue serving and celebrating our community.

    Related articles