Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Worthwhile Dumb Play

(Source: Facebook).
Last night I saw the #1,472,505th outcome of Some Dumb Play, which under the direction and creation of Nathan Sibthorpe, is currently showing at Metro Arts until this Saturday. The ambition and premise of the piece is absolutely phenomenal - the audience interact through a specially developed website that allows them to pick three options, with the most popular choice being taken and performed by the cast. There are over 1.5 million possible outcomes, and every night you see it you're practically guaranteed a different performance. I love audience interaction and think it's the most effective way of getting an audience engaged with your performance, so giving the audience a say in what goes on onstage is a fantastic initiative. 

All the actors are very good, extremely proficient at improvising with such ecstatic energy. They're prepared for everything and anything, each exercising an expertise . The acting is pretty good for what little characters they have, in particular the two driving actors are Toby Martin playing a ridiculously devoted actor catering to the whims of the audience, and Cameron Clark's snarky behaviour attempting to boycott and ruin the entire endeavour.

The quality and substance of the scenes varies. The opening gives the audience a choice between cheating spouses, police cop drama and something else that no-one even considered. With the style established, the following choices allow the audience to pick the method of which the story is communicated. There's the choice of singing, dancing, kung-fu, nudity, and racist jokes - some scenes seemed to be just added in as gimmicks, such as a political 'satire' which took up a lot of time with sexual innuendo to simply tell the characters to go through a portal. While some scenes drag along and seem under prepared, a number of others are simply fantastic. There are high speed car chases, bizarre medical phenomenons and song and dance numbers. The most entertaining turn was an interpretative medi-drama dance to t.A.T.u's 'All The Things She Said' - it's a melodramatic moment which is hilariously good fun, and everyone applauded after. If the piece had been entirely filled with work like that, it would have been considerably more rewarding. 

The problem I have with the show is its ambiguous story, and its seemingly pointless progression. During the transitions there are mumbles of how frustrating and irritating the scenes are to stage - gradually the show descends into chaos, although I didn't really understand why. I think I was looking down and voting at the turning point where you were supposed to pay attention, because the next thing I heard was an announcement that Law had been injured (but he looked fine) and was being replaced. The characters then stage walk-outs, swap roles and sabotage the performance. I just never understood why, and furthermore, who are these characters? I don't care if they're unhappy and want to stage a coup d'état because I don't even know why they're making this show. Someone told me the whole thing is an allusion to the degeneration of human interaction through the force of technology - that didn't come through at all?

Lighting was very minimal which was appropriate and effective, since it's difficult to cater for so many potential scenes and outcomes. The sound design is excruciating. The voting takes place over 90 second periods and each interval there is horribly loud white noise transmitted constantly - this is always immediately followed with a slightly less unpleasant crackling fire (no idea why). It actually hurts, someone needs to change that. The rest of the sound effects and music cues are miscellaneous stuff to quickly move the audience into the next scene.

This play would be pretty wretched if you didn't have a smart-phone. An elderly woman sat behind us, and approaching the end of the play sniggered various comments about the audience's choice. I couldn't control myself so near the end I gingerly said "Ah old people . . . not long now". But the fact she was so annoyed could probably be attributed to the fact she didn't have a smart phone, and was unable to have a say in what was going on - it sort of defeats the purpose of seeing the show. 

I wanted to enjoy the piece a lot more than I did, but in the end it's a very bold endeavour and it's a stupid oversight to not be impressed by the sheer scale of the production. It was also very cheap and supporting emerging young artists is essential for our industry to survive, and the plethora of possible outcomes and scenes is absolutely worth experiencing once. However, I wouldn't recommend it if you didn't own a smart phone, since without a device you have no input and I imagine you'd be feel pretty left out. The weak writing of the actual story lets the piece down, but it's held together by great actors who can improvise exceptionally well, interesting concepts for scenes and the novelty of being able to impact on what's being performed. There's such a huge amount of dedication, energy and potential crammed into this piece, and it's worthwhile to be seen and experienced.

Tickets for Nathan Sibthorpe's Some Dumb Play are $12-$20, and is showing at Metro Arts Sue Brenner Theatre until November 17th. Duration of approximately 50 minutes. Book by visiting Metro Arts website.

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