“A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”
By Margaret Wieringa
How can a farce from the late 1800s be relevant over two hundred years later? Perhaps because politics and society seem to be as farcical as ever, with world leaders shunning education and humanity and instead using confounding language to say very little. Or perhaps it’s just that we need a break from it all and to really laugh.
If it’s a laugh you need, this is certainly the show to go to. This interpretation of the Importance of Being Earnest by Ridiculusmus has the magnificent talents of Jon Hayes and David Woods playing all of the characters. Being the work of Oscar Wilde, comedy is in almost every line, but Hayes and Woods manage to elicit humour even from the silences. Each costume change brings titters of laughter from the audience, as much from the action itself as the anticipation of what is coming next. The timing is perfect, starting with long pauses filled with slight movements as we wait for a character to reappear, and then moving to fast-paced, frenetic changes as the play reaches its climax.
Even the set was humorous, with every surface (including the leaves of an indoor plant) covered with busy wallpaper and Persian rugs. While the magnificent costumes were practically characters of themselves, the set was used delightfully for the performers to do some of the more complex character changes.
The show plays with the concept of theatre itself, with the actors using remote controls and the like for sound and lighting cues (supported by lighting designer Stephen Hawker and sound realiser Tom Backhaus). They play with conventions, use modern music to add humour to scenes, and enjoy letting the audience in on the joke when things start to go off the rails.
Perhaps the greatest joy of the show is that the audience feels as though they have joined the actors on a magnificent journey and reach the end victorious and fulfilled.
Venue: Malthouse Theatre
Dates: 14 Feb – 8 March
Time: Varies between 5pm and 7:30pm starts
Bookings: https://tickets.malthousetheatre.com.au/production/5676 or call the box office on 9685 5111
Photography by Pia Johnson
Brilliant broken narratives and characters
By Warwick Moffat
The highly specific title of this production is just another way for UK theatre company Ridiculusmus to play with their audience. What is being explored goes way beyond schizophrenia, and the relevance is not restricted to Western Lapland, unless we are all somehow Scandinavian. Eradication shows our tendency to categorise all kinds of personal and interpersonal difficulties; ailments any of us might face at some time in our lives. It persuades us to consider whether the medical terms and the pharmaceuticals that we throw at these difficulties only make matters worse. However, there is no preaching; we come to these thoughts mostly through our own observation.
What they have us observe confirms Ridiculusmus as true masters of theatrical method. The stage is split in two by a wall. One side of the wall is a dysfunctional home, the other a dysfunctional institution. The audience are also split into two. Each can only fully see and hear one of these worlds, but can hear much of what is happening in the other. At half time, we swap sides; and so by the night’s end we have all seen the entire game played out. At times the wall appears to be a border between these two worlds, at other times it appears more like a gateway.
Ridiculusmus keeps you guessing throughout. Is one world imagined, the other real? Perhaps one past, the other present? The storyline makes an odd kind of sense, but with a palatable incoherence which leaves you sympathising with anyone who suffers from delusions. Importantly, the players never abandon the audience or stray into self-indulgence. The work of David Woods and Jon Haynes shows twenty years of anarchic playwriting. They know how to break shackles without breaking audiences.
As Therapist and Patient respectively, Woods and Haynes play their own work with distinction. As both writers and performers, they give their fellow players plenty of opportunity to deliver. As the patient’s brother, Ben Grant was heartbreakingly defenceless as an adolescent exposed to emotional abuse. As the narcissistic mother, Nicola Gunn deftly exposes the kind of splintering of the soul that would drive a parent to splinter their family.
Dates: Wed 12th to Sunday 16th November.
Time: Wed – Fri 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7.30pm; Sun 5pm.
Location: Arts House, Meat Market, 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne.
Tickets: $26 Full, $21 Concession.
Bookings: www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ARTSHOUSE/PROGRAM/Pages/TheEradicationofSchizophrenia.aspx, or call (03) 9322 3713.
Warning: This show is restricted to those aged 14 years and older.