Stories with circular plot twists have a nice satisfying quality to it, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel (to borrow the phrase from Dusty Springfield), or, in this case, like a piping hot pizza delivered fresh from Eagle Boys faster than any Amazon promise. The setting is in the cut throat world of real estate, where Nick (Nick Harriott) isn’t just working his little heart out to earn a comfortable living, but also, his dad’s respect, and ultimately, his elusive love. Tom (Tom Waddell) is the pizza delivery boy, whose bespectacled nerdy genius for cracking algorithms to sell any house to anyone lands him a job as an intern at the real estate agency. Beneath that humble and unassuming exterior there is a sinister seductive charm; behind those beady little eyes lies a thirsty appetite to make a killing in the real estate trade in more ways than one; Tom goes on to appropriate every aspect of Nick’s life – including his job, his clothes and his family, while making Nick feel like it’s his own fault for losing his identity for being a mediocre salesman.
If the plot sounds like it has echoes of The Talented Mr Ripley, it does, but the deliberate soap-opera acting and deadpan delivery keeps the chuckles going like fine wine at a wedding party.
The venue (Enmore Loft at Enmore Theatre) is befuddlingly too small when first entering the room, with all seats except the front row offering an obscured view of the stage. But this is Sydney after all, where even a shoebox should feel like a palace. And miraculously, it does; when the actors appear on a stage every patron gets a perfect view. The power of whimsy and imagination takes over as they reenact the setting at an office with a backroom full of cool prizes for meeting quarterly sales targets, including a spangly new karaoke machine. They give it a whirl, treating the audience to a rendition of the catchy Brother, Brother. The scene bridges the gap between the absurd and even absurder as Nick is edged out of the frame of his own life, de-jacketed and disowned by his own father, naked, ashamed and usurped by Tom, who now assumes the role of the real estate agent and proudly adopted son by Nick’s dad.
Floundering with flagellating self-doubt, Nick obsessively watches videos of his kung fu training videos, analysing all of his weaknesses. Tom, ever shrewd and quietly manipulative, secretly watches them too. He uses every opportunity to unbalance Nick and gaslight him into passive resignation, innocuously slipping himself into Nick’s life as easily as a bit of rogue anchovy on a pizza that you didn’t ask for, but you kind of like the taste of, until it turns out in the end to be quite salty and unpalatable. Humiliated and defeated, left with virtually nothing, Nick is on the verge of suicide, but finds the courage to become a pizza delivery boy himself. It is while cohabiting with eagles at the Eagle Boys’ joint that he finds his calling to become a hippie kung-fu Jesus with all the spiritual hotness of Ted Neely.
Tom is still selling houses as easily as if they were on the monopoly board, but 10 years on the game doesn’t feel quite as fun. There’s a lingering emptiness when he’s already sold every house in Hurstville twice.
As this offbeat charming comedy of a modern day Aesop’s fable draws to a close, the laughs are still aplenty and the moral is clear: you can become a shark and make a killing, but it’s much more thrilling to become an eagle and soar.
Nick & Tom played at Enmore Theatre Loft till 30 April 2023. For more info on the actors’ work, go to the following links: