Right: Ben Warren as the Patrolman and Jack Henry as the Naked Man
One was Nude and One Wore Tails
By Dario Fo
Directed by Heidi Manché
Room to Play Independent Theatre
Anywhere Theatre Festival
Season: May 5-14. Information www.roomtoplay.com.au
Things have changed at the historic Substation venue. The tiny space (around 28 seats), now has raked seating and a larger stage area with the bar upstairs. It is small enough too for a little less projection from the actors; all in all a much more comfortable venue.
Director Heidi Manché is also the company founder and is well-versed in Fo’s work - she has translated several and actually worked with him on a scholarship to La Sapienza University in Rome and her knowledge showed as she brought out all the farcical moments in the script and coaxed fine performances from her actors.
The production was first rate with an experienced professional cast that included one of my favourite playwrights, Elise Grieg, who played a very saucy prostitute.
Fo’s play was a typically wild absurdist farce that raced away like a thoroughbred horse for fifty minutes, and was filled with slapstick comedy and clowning, plus weird and wonderful characters. It was also very funny. With the one big prop – a garbage bin - it was perfect for the space.
The show opened with an argument about divinity between two garbage men, played by Matthew Filkins and Colin Smith. Filkins was the philosopher and Smith the simple, very bored offsider. Enter the prostitute, on the run from the cops. It was nice sexy little performance from Elise Grieg, who looked as though she was thoroughly enjoying herself as she started to flirt with the smooth talking Filkins. Eventually they run off for a tete-a-tete, which leaves Smith alone with the bin, which starts to talk.
In the bin is a naked Ambassador, played very nicely by Jack Henry, who has escaped an illicit liaison with just his top hat. The rest of his gear – his black tie and tails – is hidden somewhere in his mistresses boudoir. He tries to bribe the Garbo with his gold Rolex and cash to be pushed home unseen. The Garbo resists: “it’s a big hill”, he says. And is worried his supervisor might see him. He’s the simple, honest man.
But the toff realises he can’t go home naked anyway. He needs a new set of tails.
Luckily enters a tail-suited flower seller, the second role from Matthew Filkins, and a pig-snouted Patrolman, played with heaps of fun by Ben Warren.
Bribes are accepted, clothes are switched, characters confused and mayhem is the order of the day as the patrolman tries to arrest somebody. It was good to see so many talented people on stage doing what they love doing and involving the audience entirely.
Irt was a longish trip for me to get to the venue, but it was a trip worth taking.