WHISTLEBLOWER @ Heath Ledger Theatre gets 9.5/10

@ Heath Ledger Theatre

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


An eighties crime-mystery and psychological drama comedy about one person’s quest for justice and answers. The only catch? The star of the show is one of the audience members, chosen a few minutes before the show begins…

The Last Great Hunt’s Whistleblower is experimental theatre at its finest. The show is an insane directorial risk, which made its triumphant success even more sweet.

The play is a combination of a choose-your-own-adventure and an escape room. The stage consisted of the directors, lighting designers, sound designers and three soundproof and light proof boxes filled with sets and hidden cameras. The audience saw the action through these cameras and got a unique view at the technical crew and actors formulating responses to the choices of the main star. For every large decision made by the star, there were two moveable sets created, meaning there were three sets every night that the audience never see.

Sound-design enveloped patrons in fantastic 80s synth from a DJ working with the lighting crew, which were more like a live band than a cue-sheet, conducted by the action onstage. Rather than produce traditional scores, the sound was designed more like that of a video game, with looping tunes to perfectly fit any tone the actors pushed the scene into. Choosing to improvise with professional sets, lighting and music was extremely brave and in the words of the co-director, Tim Watts, only at a festival could you afford such an elaborate design. Live-video and AV can sometimes feel like a weak theatre fad to prop up a lacklustre show, but Whistleblower was so precise and thoughtful in its use of technology that it melted into the background.

If the promise of an experimental theatre-hybrid has not convinced you yet, perhaps the acting and dexterous improvisation will. The entire cast’s presentational acting style and vivacious energy had the audience mesmerized by the first scene. For those nervous that an audience member as the main character may accidentally ruining the show, rest easy. This cast is a well-oiled machine ready for anything the audience throws at them. Despite the limited capacity due to COVID restrictions, the audience’s laughter, booing and cheering overflowed throughout the venue.

The ensemble was powerfully crafted for each member to shine, but there were a few standouts. Co-director and ensemble member, Tim Watts, playing the unglamorous voicemail machine and Julie the Mother-in-Law, shined in his fluidity, both in improvising with input from the “main character” and switching between characters at the drop of a dial-tone. Dr Rowan, played by Isha Sharvani, commanded the stage with elegant and controlled movement, and of course, Henry the Cleaner (Chris Isaacs) made the audience burst into laughter with his mullet and his ability to improvise new facets of his character. What made the acting even more exhilarating were the glittering gems of unrehearsed moments which you knew no other audience would get to witness.

For those audience members who shudder at the thought of interactivity, never fear. The selection process isn’t entirely random. You can specify when you buy the tickets whether or not you want to observe or participate. Not only is the main character an audience member, but there are also plenty of side characters awaiting an audience member to fill their shoes. Both audiences onstage and in seats did not miss out on any of the action or fun. Either ticket type will leave you on the edge of your seat.

With strong script-writing, actors’ playful improvisations and masterful manipulation of sound and set design; there were no weak links in this performance. Whistleblower received a standing ovation from the audience and almost certainly, guests were making plans to see this unique and polished performance again in the theatre foyer.


Photos by Daniel James Grant

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