Performing Arts

Theatre Review: The Popular Mechanicals

In Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare called them Rude Mechanicals, common folk who want to perform for the Prince and maybe win his favour.

Presented by State Theatre Company,
Reviewed 10 November 2015

In Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare called them Rude Mechanicals, common folk who want to perform for the Prince and maybe win his favour. The Bard’s characters and their plot have been borrowed and extended by Keith Robinson and Tony Taylor. Shakespeare’s words are there, and his jokes, but there is more, so much more!

Originally directed by Geoffrey Rush, this production was under the sure hand of Sarah Giles, She must have had so much fun directing this, although Rush’s hand is easy to see throughout. Design by Jonathon Oxlade obviously started with the traditional dress of the era and the usual small stage but like Topsy it grew and was not confined by any conventions. The telephone, sewing machine and coffee urn all make appearances. The story has been expanded to cover the time when Bottom is missing and includes some hilarious rehearsal.

At the beginning the individual characters are introduced by entering and standing in a spot light. Each entrance, with no dialogue, creates a wave of merriment among the audience – yes it is that funny! They play instruments and sing a gay ditty about the joys of living in Tudor England and the fun begins. The composer Mark Pennington has kept the music sounding Elizabethan and Gabrielle Nankivell must have had nightmares choreographing this mayhem but should be congratulated on the result!

Lori Bell in "The Popular Mechanicals" Photo: Shane Reid

Lori Bell in “The Popular Mechanicals”
Photo: Shane Reid

The cast were great, Rory Walker as Peter Quince, the carpenter and the leader of the band of players was the strong centre of the group, and gave his usual stalwart performance as the straight man. Tim Overton was Francis Flute, the bellows mender and had an hilarious reaction to being told he will play the part of Thisby, his general demeanour was so down he did not have to do much to elicit mirth. Lori Bell played Tom Snout, the tinker who ends up with the part of “the wall”, after losing the prop her version of the “chink” had everyone in stitches. Amber McMahon, complete with moustache and ‘cavalier’ beard, makes a very energetic Snug, the joiner, who is happy to play the lion as he is “not a quick study”.

Robin Starveling, the tailor (complete with electric sewing machine) is played by Julie Forsyth and it is the first time I have seen a sewing machine used as a musical instrument! The other member of the troupe is Bottom, the weaver, and Charles Mayer fills the role completely, especially when Bottom is given the lead role, but thinks he can play all the others! Mayer also plays Bottom’s replacement (after he has been beguiled by Titania), Mowldie who has an even bigger ego than Bottom, can scull wine from a cask and looks comical in tights. He switches from one character to the other in the blink of an eye.

This excellent cast work well together and don’t give the audience much time to rest. The set design with its numerous trapdoors, useful for pushing props through when you change scenes, and its rear curtain which comes in useful for all sorts of things, provides a wonderful comic setting, which this cast make full use of. It allows for rubber chickens to appear where least expected and the longest fart joke ever to be truly funny.

Word of warning, there is no interval and with all that laughing be sure you start with an empty bladder! It is really difficult to explain how funny this show is, so go see for yourself, you’ll kick yourself if you miss it.

It is Rude Crude and Hilarious!

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Venue: Space Theatre, Festival Centre
Season: 06 –28 November
Duration: 1hr 30mins (no interval)
Tickets: Adult $69, Conc. $59, Under 30 $31 Primary/Secondary Student $27


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