Tuesday, 29 September 1998

Cyrano de Bergerac - as told by three idiots, Sept 29, 1998

Another review from last century for your delectation. This one's a mad, clown version of Cyrano. KH
Adapted from Edmund Rostand
La Mama at the Courthouse Theatre until October 17, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you do not know the original Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmund Rostand, you might know Steve Martin's film, Roxanne, based on Cyrano. A similar comic-poignant balancing act informs the style of Cyrano de Bergerac - as told by three idiots.

The idiots are three actors: David Adamson, Glynis Angell and Bruce Naylor who are directed by Alex Pinder. The three, according to the program notes, "share, perform and fight for all the roles" which allows the actors' own personae to be part of the performance.

As themselves, they bicker over their individual interpretations of the poet-fighter and vie for the privilege of playing the heroic, poetic, love-soaked Cyrano or, more to the point, who gets to sport his enormous, ugly honker.

Part of the play is classic clown with slapstick fight scenes, goofy caricatures and absurd references. These are interspersed with slabs of Rostand's fine text which is essentially poetic, romantic and, finally, tragic.

Cyrano has a reputation as a rabble-rouser, fearless soldier and fine poet. He suffers unrequited love of his pretty cousin, Roxanne. He finds himself in the invidious position of writing ardent love letters to her which are signed by Christian, a handsome young soldier beloved by Roxanne.

The dramatic, text-based scenes take precedence in the latter half of the 90 minute show and are poignant but less successful than the earlier idiocy. The clownery is often hilarious, although it could be pushed further to maintain its edge. When the energy drops and the voices and actions are too restrained, the show falters.

The director's balancing of the styles is awkward. They need to go further towards both the tragic and the comic. There are also some clumsy scene changes which cannot be covered by the trio singing prettily.

The ensemble is strong after developing this piece over a long workshop period. All three are charming and engaging and all have hilarious character cameos.

Naylor's loud brash servant woman is a hoot and Adamson as the evil, grimacing Comte de Guiche is suitably slimy while Angell, in several small roles, demonstrates her excellent physical clown skills; the more extreme their interpretation, the more effective the result.

This piece could benefit from tighter direction, further editing of the text and some more wildly over-the-top clowning. My gauge of their success became the giggles from the six-year-old in the front row. He loved it.

By Kate Herbert September 1998

Sunday, 27 September 1998

INFECTIOU$, Sept 27, 1998

The 90s really had some mad theatre. Here's another archived review. KH
by Maude Davey and Marcia Ferguson
Lower Melbourne Town Hall until Oct 11, 1998

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

INFECTIOU$ is a psycho-pop-sci-fi-medical-satire with songs. Please explain? A megalomaniacal capitalist, Mr. Sphinx, (Karen Hadfield) employs medical researchers Drs. Pathology (James Wardlaw) and Drip (Jane Bayly), to isolate a world-threatening virus.

A patient called Infection (David Pidd) is turning into a chair. Yes, a chair. Claudia, a Fitzroy resident with a social conscience, (Maude Davey) is enraged by the insensitive, capitalist trend and laments her own fading empathy for the troubled: the losers, loners, street-people.

A granny in pink dressing gown (Marcia Ferguson) is losing her grip on this world and no-one seems to care - except her grand-daughter, Claudia. This ugly, impersonal world values the virtual and the lucrative above the actual and the personal. A 2-dimensional, screen queen (Pidd) coolly comments on the virtual versus the real.

There is a social and political message. We are infected with selfishness. We are blind to poverty, anguish, age and illness. Our sense of community is virtually(!) gone. Without a dollar value to society we are dispensable.

The script for this wacky show was written by Marcia Ferguson with Maude Davey, Madam of the Fringe, She Who Guides Us through the lurid halls of alternative theatre.

The six actors, directed by Melanie Beddie, sing, dance and quip their choreographed way through 90 minutes of goofy hospital cabaret, reminiscent of the television grotesquery of Let the Blood Run Free.

The narrative is interspersed with diverse, original music by Pete Farnan (Boom Crash Opera). The songs are the most inspiring and satisfying component, making their political points with pithy lyrics and big, live sound. Titles such as, "What will happen if nobody gives any more?" "I object. I'm not an object," " I want to be human,” "If money is a disease, I've got it," and " Give me a dollar or I die," reveal the whole story.

 There are a few weaknesses that do not affect the fun of the evening. There are too many narrative threads to be resolved. In the end, whose story is it? Nanny's? Claudia's? Patient Infection's? The humour sometimes relies on bad puns and under-grad jokes. If it were not for the quality of the performers it might be mistaken for the Uni Med School revue.

But this is an hilarious, lively, impassioned night of satirical humour which touches the bleeding, ugly core of our shallow world. We do not want to " get over the empathy thing."

 By Kate Herbert 27 Sept 1998