04
May
12

That Scottish Play

That Scottish Play

SRT & Lind Lane Theatre

Lind Lane Theatre

27th April – 4th May

Have you ever been involved in community theatre? We used to call it “amateur” theatre but that term has become more closely associated with poor quality performances and megalomania than with its original meaning, which is “to love” (from the Latin verb, amo). The term, “community theatre”, seems to have a friendlier tone to it. But that tone can be deceptive!

Simon Denver’s That Scottish Play features a talented and, one suspects, largely undiagnosed cast of Sunshine Coast actors sending up Sunshine Coast actors. It reveals the machinations of a community theatre group in the imagined Sunshine Coast town of Widgee. It could be Nambour. It could be anywhere. We recognise the characters and their quirks, we laugh out loud at their ridiculous antics and we loathe the egos that can’t help but surface under the little theatre’s spotlight. Names are named and every local theatre company is fair game! No one and nothing is safe from Denver’s pen!

That Scottish Play has been taken out of the vault and prepared for a strictly limited season at Lind Lane Theatre in just a few weeks. It’s like (Louis Nowra’s) Cosi on ice, though not the family-friendly Disney version you’re thinking of. More like the unfriendly, politically incorrect, if-only-there-were-ice-in-Africa, chaotic kind of Cosi on Ice. It’s an extremely talented ensemble – Denver says they are “from the deeper end of the talent pool” – and one of them, Sam Coward, who plays the guy who plays Macbeth, Nathan Gayelord, says, “I never read the script. It was a guideline.” This is typical from someone who has worked with Denver before. Many of the members of this extended company (let’s call it +SRT) have had that privilege and a few have not. Let’s hope they are brave enough to take up the mantle again because this cast is a joy to watch. They are each experienced enough and confident enough to just play. This play requires the notion of play to be unleashed – as Director, this is Denver’s specialty – and we can see that they’re having fun! It’s certainly the best parody we’ve seen and the local references are obvious enough to have audience members blushing in their seats, loving every minute of it!

The “problem” with such a localised and personalised parody is that those who are slightly outside of the teensy weensy world of local theatre don’t get it. This may need to be a consideration in future, in order to attract the desired ticket sales. I watched with interest on opening night, a party of elderly, typically Lind Lane Theatre patrons and they were in turns, bemused, horrified, terrified, nonplussed and not amused. I was in fact waiting for one of them to say at the end, “We are not amused.” Perhaps they thought they were coming to see Shakespeare’s Macbeth?!

Well, of course if you read the publicity or Google Mr Denver’s works, you’ll realise that this is not Macbeth but a basic tale of typical amateur over-the-top theatrics. The Lower Widgee Amateur Drama Group prepare to stage a production of Macbeth…with all the actual and boring Macbeth bits taken out of it! Early in the rehearsal process, the show becomes a musical (because what’s the biggest bums-on-seats show an amateur theatre company can pull off in a year? A musical!), allowing us to enjoy ridiculous musical theatre performances (think Forbidden Broadway) from the likes of Chris Surplice (who has come up from Sydney to play) and Sam Coward, who hasn’t been heard to sing, except in the car and in the theatre when bored or making a point as Director, since he played Javert in an impressive little production of Les Miserables in Mt Isa (not so impressive were the brows back then, mine, not Sam’s; his are fine. Thank goodness I’ve been threaded since then!).

Well-known, well-loved performers from right across the coast join these pillars of performance power and strength on stage. Joy Marshall as Penelope Ascot is a standout. She limps and she lisps and whenever The Trophy or The Awards are mentioned, she twitches. Hers is a hilarious performance and it is well balanced by Brett Klease’s, as the professional director, Simon, from Brisbane, who comes in on the wings of a successful grant application and won’t be directing anything much in the end (and won’t be allowed to leave)! Surplice, as Nigel Chandler, has a few nice little moments, particularly in the plotting, scheming scenes, when we get a glimpse at how far the bitchiness backstage can go. Howie Tampling gives us some good belly laughs, as the guy with Tourette’s and Errol Morrison is the perfect small country town mayor and the hapless husband of the overly-ambitious Penelope.

Individual characters are made very clear and some of the mimicry is too close to be believed. Yikes! But even the audience members who are at the brunt of the jokes appear pleased! Phew! MD Darren Heskes provides an amusing, well-synched underscore throughout, referencing all the major musicals. His work helps to move more swiftly some of the scenes that threaten to lag. This is exemplified in Nigel’s scheming scene, in which he plots with Penelope to kill the (university trained) “real” actors, underscored by a few bars from Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. The actors could very easily have sung, “We need him crucified, it’s all you have to do…”

This production is a first for the Sunshine Coast. It parodies the best-known members of each theatre company in a ruthless and rather daring manner and yet leaves only a few offended (the collateral damage). It seems the writing is witty enough and the pace fast enough for this motley company to get away with all manner of sins! The combined talents on stage and off indicate that there is a distinct lack of entertainment like this – for actors and audience to get their teeth into – and the results indicate that there should be more of it. If Denver can pen a play like this in a couple of hours (and re-write it during rehearsals) and another, his latest, in less than an hour (So, Where Is It? was originally a one act play and was whittled down to just 10 minutes, winning the Gold Coast and Brisbane Short + Sweet Awards and taking out 3rd place in the national competition in Sydney this year), then he should be producing something new at least twice a year! There is talent to perform the work and audiences craving to see it. Let’s have more like this, please.

Final performances: tonight (Friday) and tomorrow night (Saturday) at 8pm & final matinee tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm at Lind Lane Theatre

Book online or call 07 5441 1814

 

An audience member offered this feedback:

 

Last evening, Wednesday 3 May 2012, my partner and I with a couple of friends attended the production of “That Scottish Play”. Now we would like to take this opportunity in thanking every actor in this production plus all of the theatre crew for one of the most enjoyable theatre experiences of Lind Lane (although we also did enjoy the 3 Act plays performed last year by the theatre.)
 
We all found the play, or was it really a musical in disguise, we still aren’t too sure, totally entertaining and extremely funny and terribly well crafted and acted. Congratulations to all for a great night’s entertainment and may we expect more of the same in the future? we do hope so.
 
Simon Denver’s writings are truly of an international standard and he certainly knows just how to bring out the ‘best’ in his players.
 
We wish the cast and writer/director all the very best and again, thank you so much for such a most memorable evening of true comic theatre.
 
Bravo!
 
Mr Paolo-Andrea L.G. Roberto-Preston
Eudlo

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