All of the characters in the Australian comedy Horseplay are nasty, stupid or both.It’s set amongst the high echelons of Melbourne’s upper-crust rich, a predictably narcissistic and shallow bunch. Circling them is a couple of wannabe snobs - Max (Marcus Graham) and schoolgirl Becky (Abbie Cornish) - who will do anything to get their hands on money. The destinies of Max and Becky intersect on Melbourne Cup day, as Max’s grandiose plan to fix the race and make his fortune comes to fruition.
Most of the performances are keyed at such a shrill pitch as to be deafening. The exceptions are a laidback Jason Donovan as a sex-addict accountant and Amanda Douge as his airhead society wife. I’ve previously been impressed by Marcus Graham’s stage work, especially his Tom Wingfield in a 2002 Sydney Theatre Company production of The Glass Menagerie. He often seems ill at ease on screen, and is unable to provide the devilish charm the part of Max desperately needs.
Writers Stavros Kazantzidis (also director) and Allanah Zitserman (also producer) have constructed an impressively complicated revolving plot of murders and kidnappings, pregnancy and adultery, crime and dishonour and farcical mistaken identity. They’ve carefully omitted any inkling of romance, generosity or good humour. Unable to identify or empathise with anyone, I cared not a jot for what transpired.Perhaps Kazantzidis was looking for a change of pace after his frothy but highly enjoyable romantic comedy, Russian Doll. If so, I’m not exactly sure what he was aiming for. Horseplay is too dim-witted for satire and not funny enough for black comedy.