December is almost upon us and that means a couple of things: Christmas is just around the corner and it’s the month that starts what is known as the ‘silly season’ – and what better way to celebrate silliness than with the Adelaide Rep’s latest production, The Mystery of the Hansom Cab. As directed by Gary Anderson, the show is silly, delightfully over the top, extremely funny and very, very entertaining.
The Mystery of the Hansom Cab is a melodrama, which means that the audience gets to hiss and boo the dastardly deeds of the villain, cheer the handsome hero, swoon over the lovely heroine, and have a great sing-a-long with the cast. Anderson’s production allows all of this with gusto.
Anderson has relocated the play to nineteenth century Adelaide, allowing for the use of some wonderfully historic slides of Rundle Street, King William Street, and Glenelg Jetty and Foreshore as backdrops, and some great jibes at local institutions such as Don Dunstan’s pink shorts, The Advertiser and Sunday Mail journalism, the new Adelaide Oval, and the building of the footbridge over the Torrens – add in footlights on the stage, a cut out fake red plush curtain, the fantastic musical stylings of Sandi McMenamin and Rowan Dennis and there is a real Olde English Music Hall feel to the whole performance.
The cast is a nice mix of dab-hands and newbies to this style of theatre. Barry Hill, Jude Hines and Penni Hamilton-Smith are three very tried and true melodramatics and when they have been on even once, there is not much of the set left after their devouring it with hilarious over acting; Hill is not only one of the best cape-twirling villains ever but is delightful as a timid actor reciting The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom.
Lindy LeCornu reprises her excruciatingly funny balloon dance previously performed by her and Richard Lane in the Rep’s last Melodrama, Love Rides The Rails. But this time, having paired with Christopher Evans creating such a physical disparity, the routine is even more hysterical. The act of the evening belongs to Ethel Schwartz (bearing an uncanny resemblance to professional vaudevillian, Phyl Skinner) however, who, in her nineties, shows everyone just how to deliver jokes perfectly – this one performer takes us back in time to show just what made Vaudeville work so well.
The one piece of seriousness in the show is Chris Meegan’s beautiful rendition of Danny Boy.
Ryan Dooley makes a delightfully quirky hero, with his natural Irish accent adding to his characterisation; Hannah O’Grady is the perfect ‘pretty as a picture’ heroine; and Jonathon Johnston gives a nice performance as, quite possibly, the tallest ever newsboy (with a great Cockney accent).
However, the super glue that joins all these antics together is the brilliant performance by Joshua Coldwell as the Master of Ceremonies. Coldwell is simply magnificent, taking the audience on a thoroughly enjoyable journey, aided by his energy, humour and totally winning smile – ladies, prepare to swoon!
Be sure to hitch yourself to this wonderful hansom cab.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Arts Theatre 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 21-30 November 2013
Duration: 2 hours 15 mins including interval
Tickets: $17.00 – $22.00
Bookings: Phone 8212 5777 or online via TryBooking.com
Disclosure: Brian Godfrey was a Board member of the Adelaide Rep in 2012