‘Law and Order: PTV’ was loco(motive).
When one thinks of the city of Melbourne, there are likely a few iconic images that come to mind – Federation Square, St Kilda Beach, Queen Victoria Markets, Myer Christmas Windows, and the MCG. Perhaps the most defining mental imagery is the historic Flinders Street Station (particularly when there are trams stationed at its entrance). Public transport is, in essence, the bloodline of Melbourne. The trip to get to one of the city’s landmarks is emblematic in and of itself. It is this experience that serves as the hilarious basis for Sevenfold Theatre Company’s latest show, ‘Law and Order: PTV.’
Merging together two concepts that would usually not be considered related, public transport and police procedural drama, Sevenfold Theatre has created a show that is as hysterical as it is creative. After a sold-out maiden season last year, ‘Law and Order: PTV’ (standing for ‘Public Transport Victoria) returns to Melbourne in 2022 with a refreshingly satirical look at everyday life during the global pandemic in the world’s most locked-down city. Modelled as a series of comedic sketches about Victoria’s public transport network – specifically under the current Daniel Andrews government – ‘Law and Order: PTV’ aims to showcase the worst of the worst when it comes to commuting, with the likes of fare evasion, invalid concession cards, and feet on seats being merely the tip of the iceberg.
This year ‘Law and Order: PTV’ calls The Toff home. Located on the second floor of the century-old Curtis House, The Toff dons multiple hats – theatre, bar, and restaurant. With low, warm lighting akin to a European cocktail bar, the venue offers patrons a trendy, yet relaxed experience in all of its facets.
Faux velvet-lined seats stand in rows of eight with a black floored aisle separating the theatre into equal halves. The stage is compact, yet functional. Decorated with three standing pinboards which in turn are adorned with various Melbourne transport paraphernalia, the stage invites audiences to pay close attention to all that lay before them – an imperative venture for any investigation. As the house lights dim, a rush of silence swells throughout the audience, ready to board this train to lunacy.
As is indicative of any ‘Law and Order’ property (canon or parody), the lighting, sounds, and costuming are all imperative to ‘PTV’s’ storytelling. The marriage of lighting cues with comedic timing is an impressive feat which, for the most part, is executed deftly throughout the show. As one would expect in a show about public transport officers acting like police, interrogation spotlights are aplenty, but always used effectively.
Similarly, several coloured lights are utilised to emphasise emotions and gags. In a particularly memorable scene onboard a V/Line train, the stage is submerged in a richly sinister shade of crimson, denoting the scene’s equal emphasis of horror and dark comedy. Although at times there can be a bit of an over-reliance on strobe effects, ‘Law and Order: PTV’s’ lighting cues offer a stellar addition to the visual comedy of the show.
Similar praise can be given to Sevenfold’s use of sound. As any commuter will attest, the cacophony of rush hour on public transport can be practically deafening. Writer Fae O’Toole captures this noise perfectly. From frequent overhead announcements to blaring music from another passenger’s iPhone, O’Toole (along with co-directors Zachary Dixon and Tess Walsh) encases the audience in lively orchestration.
However, it is during the moments when the show moves away from its transport setting that its sound design truly shines. The infectiously creative mashup dance routines bookending the show feel reminiscent of the high-octane performance sequences of The Toros from ‘Bring It On’ and The New Directions from ‘Glee’. The standout – which should come as no surprise to any ‘Law and Order’ aficionado – is the iconic “dun dun” noise – used with comedic precision throughout the show, never failing to amass laughs and applause from the audience.
Bringing the worlds of ‘Law and Order’ and Public Transport Victoria is no easy feat, but the strong costume design certainly helped. Each member of the seven-fold cast (no pun intended) is stylised to represent a familiar caricature from the namesake franchise or as a transport officer. White lab coats and dark navy trousers are prominent fixtures throughout ‘Law and Order: PTV’, though the cast is not restricted to only workwear. Several cast members double as passengers, each with their own distinctive style and personality. But it is hard to go past the sparkly unitards, top hats, and fishnets the cast adorn during their aforementioned dance numbers. Special mention must go to The Fat Controller costume which would undoubtedly garner a cheerful “Shantay, you stay,” from Mama Ru herself.
O’Toole’s quick-witted script is delightfully sardonic and is executed masterfully by the winning team of Dixon and Walsh. O’Toole and Dixon’s four-year collaborative relationship as writer and director, respectively, is demonstrated well throughout ‘Law and Order: PTV’. Dixon demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the material and is able to translate it accordingly onto the stage. Walsh’s addition to the team is notable for making the show feel refreshingly contemporary, even two years after its setting (during the initial pandemic pandemonium of early- to mid-2020). Walsh and Dixon’s direction illustrates a unified affection for both physical and verbal comedy. Paired with O’Toole’s laugh-per-minute script, Dixon and Walsh cultivate a hysterical atmosphere that resonates with audiences seven-fold (pun intended this time).
The comedic heart of ‘Law and Order: PTV’ is its characters. Each member of the cast brings a stellar knack for comedy, allowing each their own respective moments to shine. They all exude united chemistry onstage that is joyously contagious. With each character being playfully named after a suburb/train line within Melbourne metro or Victoria’s regional networks, audiences are almost certainly likely to chuckle. Asher Griffin Jones provides Chief Craig E. Burn nice contrast of buffoonery and comedic intimidation. Kiara Ariza Stellato Pledger’s Officer Sandra Ingham is entertainingly versatile. The pairing of Tom Costigan’s Officer Frank Ston with Sian Crowe’s new recruit Officer Lily Dale is sure to elicit laughter and squirms in equal measure. Zoë Harlen is delightfully cheerful as the adorkable Lab Technician Up Field. The unreserved standouts however are Tam Dahmen and Kyle C Cuthbert as V/Line Ticket Inspector Bonnie Doon and Officer Glen Waverley. Dahmen performs her snappy dialogue with prowess, allowing for Doon to feel both familiar and unique at the same time. Cuthbert, in contrast, provides Officer Waverley a charmingly nuanced characterisation that audiences are inevitably going to rally behind.
Public transport and theatre are integral components of Melbourne’s lifestyle, so it was perhaps inevitable that the two would converge. Sevenfold Theatre Company’s ‘Law and Order: PTV’ is a hilarious love letter to the city that doesn’t shy away from poking fun at its many shortcomings. In framing the show as a parody of television shows such as ‘CSI’, ‘NCIS’, or the titular ‘Law and Order’, Sevenfold encourages its audience to think, relate, and, of course, laugh. Theatregoers should definitely not delay onboarding this comedic train ride. Next stop – hilarity.
Sevenfold Theatre Company’s ‘Law and Order: PTV’ performed until Sunday, 15 May 2022. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit The Toff’s website.