Review: The Colour Orange (Flaming Howard Productions)

Venue: Giant Dwarf (Redfern NSW), May 19, 2018
Book and lyrics: Oli Cameron, Sophia Roberts
Music: Oli Cameron
Director: Oli Cameron, Sophia Roberts
Cast: Kirralee Elliott, Liam Ferguson, Gabi Kelland, Zach Selmes, Zara Stanton, Victoria Zerbst
Image by Alex Smiles

Theatre review
Pauline Hanson is one of our most famous politicians, a celebrity the media never seems to tire of, who is constantly in our airwaves with some variety of outrageous concoction. We are in an age where people are encouraged to behave poorly, so that they can be turned into clown-like characters, for our daily consumption of current affairs. There are consequences of course, to this morbid fascination and promotion of unsavoury types, but their ability to prevail within our cultural consciousness in undeniable.

The Colour Orange is a musical by Oli Cameron and Sophia Roberts, that tracks the rise and fall, and rise again of Hanson. Before the ubiquity of influencers and the twitterati, Hanson was a legitimate oddity. Cameron and Roberts are fascinated by the early years of her fame, spending much of their 60 minutes recalling what can only be described as an embarrassing portion of Australian political history. There is no questioning the colourful, and hence highly entertaining quality of those times, but little is made of our current climate and her persistent relevance to those who are so resolutely behind her.

The songs are thoroughly amusing, cleverly devised to deliver maximum comedic effect, although its satire seems to dwell most comfortably on the tried and tested. Hanson is presented as a walking cliché, and the audience laps it up. Although lacking in fresh perspectives, there is plenty to make fun of, and like its closing number says, “isn’t it fun to laugh,” repeatedly so it seems, at this bugbear that refuses to go away.

It is a raw production, but the talent on display is significant. The band, known as The Flaming Howards, is cohesive and effervescent, with Cameron as their spirited leader, bringing an appropriate amount of camp to proceedings. Six performers play a range of roles, all individually impressive, each one memorable in their own right. All players are given the opportunity to take on the lead role at different moments, but it is somewhat disappointing that none have taken up the challenge of impersonating Hanson’s very distinct speaking voice. There is however, enough derision already taking place, to keep us satisfied.

What Hanson represents, requires little decipherment; we have known her for over two decades, and her playbook never changes. The Colour Orange all but neglects the meanings of her resurgence, even though it is more than worthwhile to try and understand what it is in our community today, that allows that particular brand of hatred, prejudice and the thoughtless persecution of our own kind, to raise its ugly head. It has been demonstrated time and time again, that the presence of people like Hanson, feeds an insidious appetite for destruction, that when left unchecked, will not hesitate to precipitate one catastrophe after another.

Review: Route Dash Niner (Re:group Performance Collective)

merrigongVenue: Giant Dwarf (Redfern NSW), Dec 13, 2016
Written and performed by: Jackson Davis, James Harding, Mark Rogers, Steve Wilson-Alexander, Carly Young

Theatre review
We meet a group of Australian astronauts as they prepare to travel light years into deep space. It is a formal set up, something like a press conference perhaps, where we are furnished with information on this monumental undertaking. Route Dash Niner is a very droll, very stoic work of comedy. There are certainly moments where the audience laughs out loud, but the show seems more interested in simply keeping us amused, with a sense of humour that is about a captivating subtlety, rather than relying on a standard formula of delivering one punchline after another.

The performers are incredibly serious within their deadpan approach, and coupled with the gravity of the context being manufactured, we find ourselves in a curious situation where nothing is believable, yet everything feels real. Our reaction to the details of their absurd journey oscillates between laughter and logic. We participate as audience at a comedy show for half the time, and serious journalists participating in a sombre occasion the other half. It is an unusual theatrical experience, unnerving at times but ultimately, and surprisingly, compelling.

The quiet confidence of Route Dash Niner‘s unusual humour wins us over. Its science fiction may not feature remarkable intellect, but the creators’ refusal to underestimate their audience’s level of receptiveness, as many comics are want to do, gives the show a certain sophistication. The astronauts are expected to return in six months. What happens at the next symposium is anybody’s guess, but smart money is on something funny and more than a little odd.

Review: I Spied (Giant Dwarf)

I Spied IMG_0068Venue: Giant Dwarf (Redfern NSW), Nov 14 – 24, 2014
Playwright: David Callan
Director: Marko Mustac
Cast: David Callan
Image by Matthew Neville

Theatre review
David Callan worked for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization between 1986 and 1993. His script for I Spied has no shortage of amusing anecdotes and observations about his time as a desk bound spy, which is a surprising revelation as one would expect ASIO employees to be heavily restricted by confidentiality agreements that allow them to disclose little. Certainly, national secrets of any consequence are not discussed, but Callan’s personal reflections and memories of an unusual occupation are substantial enough, at least for a one man comedy routine.

The play is written well, with episodes and gags thoughtfully constructed, and the transitions between them sensitively honed. The many short and light narratives are presented with a buoyancy that keeps things engaging, even though the stakes are never very dramatic. Marko Mustac’s direction gives the production enough colour and movement without causing any distraction, and he gives Callan adventurous frameworks to explore his abilities as a performer. The actor takes time to warm up, but he is generally dynamic, with good range and commitment. He is funniest when mimicking stereotypes, creating memorable impressions of people like elderly security guards with mobility walkers and German television hosts. Confidence levels are not always consistent, and his familiarity with the text is yet to be perfected, but Callan has an earnest charm that keeps us on his side. It is noteworthy that he seems to shine brightest in the intermittent darker moments, where he talks briefly about subjects like torture and terrorism. Callan becomes immersed in his deeper thoughts, displaying an authenticity that proves to be more powerful and captivating.

I Spied strikes a chord when it talks about terrorism and technology. Callan’s description of the danger that arises from the increasing ease at which our ideologies and our physical selves travel around the world. The advancement of our civilisations are at a critical point where peoples seem to clash, quicker than before, and more often than before. As the sharing of information becomes unprecedentedly accessible, and we find ourselves in webs of deceit and contradictory truths, this is a time where restraint and compassion seem to have abandoned us… except, maybe, at the theatre.