The Anywhere Festival not only opens up many of the more unusual places across Brisbane, but is also an opportunity for our ‘creatives’ to shine. Room to Play‘s production of One Was Nude and One Wore Tails is a great example of the depth and breadth of skills on our doorstep. Heidi Manché has launched a marvellous new performance space with a one-act Italian farce which plays for nine nights as part of Brisbane’s 2016 Anywhere Festival.
In the program notes, Manché highlights that Dario Fo, is adamant that his works should be made relevant for local people and places. Having studied in Italy—which included both translating works by Fo into English, and working alongside the Nobel Laureate—Heidi is ideally placed to bring (and apply) this work to Brisbane. Right from the dimming of the lights, the production has a local flavour, as the cast grabs our attention with a rousing performance of “What’s In Your Bin? (an original song, lyrics and music by Kate Pascoe)—complete with references to “the Caxton”, Musgrave Park, and Bardon. The song then gives way to the opening dialogue, where the two Garbage men are Brisbane Council employees (Colin Smith and Matthew Filkins).
Farce is difficult to do well. Traditionally fast and furious, humour comes from often crude characterisations, absurd situations, word-play, innuendo, buffoonery and horseplay. The Room to Play production draws on each of these techniques. Crude characterisations include the Patrolman as a grunting pig (Ben Warren), and the scheming Man in Evening Dress adopting a German accent (Matthew Filkins). Innuendo abounds as soon as Woman (deliciously played by Elise Grieg) is on the stage. And of course, what can be more absurd than a naked man in a bin (played, with great relish, by Jack Henry), who manages to convince others that he is an ambassador. Unless you don’t find it completely ridiculous that a diplomat might take temporary refuge in a council bin, having had his ‘lovemaking’ interrupted by a returning husband?
The production was extremely well-served by Colin Smith (Garbage Man One). Smith played a convincing fall-guy who just wants to do his job well, meet the requirements of his supervisor, and help out someone in need where he can. During the 45-minute play, Smith is convinced he is a deity, persuaded to cover for a colleague, influenced to hand over his wallet to help the fugitive ambassador return home…. and… well, you’ll just have to visit the historic 1930’s Paddington Substation to find out the rest.
The play invites us to question the extent to which clothing is important in issues of identity and self-worth. Under Manché’s direction, we also have a chance to ponder just what it is that makes us laugh, and the importance of humour in conveying thought-provoking messages. For example, guffaws at Warren’s grunting patrolman—as he ran up and down the stairs—turned to uncertain ripples of laughter from the audience. Manché’s cast want to hear their Brisbane audiences laugh. Hopefully you will join them, before leaving the Paddington Substation with the words of Woman ringing in your ears—reassured that you can laugh, and shouldn't worry that you are “..stupid… you know… always the last person to catch on.”
Congratulations to Danielle Carter (Producer), Heidi Manché, and the rest of the team for a thought-provoking evening. I look forward to seeing future productions from Room to Play, and hope that this theatre company is not the only group to use this great new, multi-level “intimate, industrial and surprising space for hire” in Brisbane.
Audience tip: Arrive early and take the opportunity to visit the cash bar before selecting your (surprisingly comfortable) seat. And laugh!
The reviewer attended a preview of the show on 6 May, 2016. One Was Nude and One Wore Tails was on until Saturday 14th May, 2016. Tickets were available via the Anywhere Festival website.