Review: Triassic Parq (Squabbalogic Independent Music Theatre)

Triassic Parq Company 3   Pic Michael Francis.jpgVenue: Seymour Centre (Sydney NSW), Jun 17 – Jul 4, 2015
Book & Lyrics: Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, Steve Wargo
Music: Marshall Pailet
Director: Jay James-Moody
Cast: Mark Chamberlain, Keira Daley, Blake Erickson, Crystal Hegedis, Rob Johnson, Adèle Parkinson, Monique Sallé
Image by Michael Francis

Theatre review
There are two sides to every fight. In Triassiq Parq, we finally learn the truth about the dinosaurs in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and why they had run amok killing every human in sight, all those 22 years ago. It turns out nature had imposed its own ideas about gender and reproduction on the living exhibits, and along with the subsequent collapse of religion in the neo-Triassic community, all hell breaks loose. Clearly, absurd doesn’t even begin to describe it, but the madness of the contexts proves to work even better in the musical format than in a blockbuster adventure-thriller movie. Sure, there are no frightful moments of computer generated cartoonery here, but the level of hilarity being spawned would rival any attempt at filmic entertainment.

The production is a relentlessly comical one. Even though it takes itself seriously enough to display an impressive standard of professionalism, director Jay James-Moody unearths a great deal of inventiveness to ensure that the show is funny at every step of the way, and with a wicked but sophisticated sense of humour, he prevents the show from ever turning too unsavoury in light of the text’s extravagant silliness. Minor sacrifices are made in terms of the relationships between characters that could have been portrayed with more emotional depth, but it is a small price to pay for the genuine and incessant laughter it is able to manufacture.

Neil Shotter’s brilliant set design achieves an unexpected variety of spacial configurations that help make scene transitions dynamic and cohesive. It is not a lavish construction, but what it delivers is incredibly imaginative and very effective. Also contributing to the show’s success is its 4-piece band, headed by musical director Mark Chamberlain, as well as the work of sound designer Jessica James-Moody. The confidence and liveliness of what they present, along with its ability to coalesce all physical and visual elements on stage into an effervescent whole, is remarkable.

Performances from all members of cast is strong. They are entirely committed and unified in vision, and what they may lack in terms of star quality, they more than make up for with tenacity and skill. Blake Erickson is memorable as the Pastor (and also as Morgan Freeman), with a powerfully versatile voice, and a delightfully camp sensibility that stretches from wincing to wild, perfectly suited to the tone of the show. In the role of the curiously transgender T-Rex 2 is Adèle Parkinson, who attacks with a kind of outrageous abandonment that keeps us captivated at every turn. Parkinson’s singing connects as much as her comedy does, and we find ourselves enamoured with all that she brings to the stage. Leading man Rob Johnson plays the Velociraptor of Innocence, the dinosaur who declares it a beautiful day to be a woman, before disaster strikes. The vibrant and energetic Johnson is a precise, if slightly wooden, performer whose disciplines as a triple-threat serve him well in the part. His presence needs to grow larger for centre stage, but it is a warm one that makes him an easily liked personality.

There are few things as irritating as a musical that tries to convey deep and meaningful messages, and fails. Triassiq Parq is no such thing. It uses the musical format to bring joy and wonder to an eager crowd desperate to be divorced from reality, who for 90 minutes escapes into a world of childlike stupor in search of something extraordinary and light. Triassiq Parq is clever, mischievous, and dexterously executed. It is everything one could need at trying times.