Cast: Ross Balbuziente, Bil Campbell Hurry, Julie Cotterell, Sarah McCoy and Tim O’Connor with Josh McIntosh.
There’s been a lighting failure – hey, it’s that time of the year – but after a quarter-hour wait, we relinquish our “tickets” on which we’ve dutifully written our telegrams and enter the theatre to the explanation that the show will go on as best they can with minimum lighting. Mid-program some of these telegrams are read out. At this point it becomes obvious the cast is playing on home ground, for although we miss many of the in-jokes the audience has a ball.
I expected something like that ’70s musical comedy Dimboola which centres on two families, one Protestant and one Catholic, who share a riotous “wedding of the year.” This invited audience participation, a rather outré concept in that more staid era. In Randomania the audience is thoroughly warmed up by Josh McIntosh’s mimed intro. He holds up flip charts with firstly a picture of a mobile phone. Then the words “You can leave it on…but use it for good not evil.” He adds, “Now I sound like Bono.”
McIntosh flourishes and demonstrates how to play some cheap musical instruments; a triangle, cymbals that need to be prodded back into shape after strong clashing and the inevitable jingle bells (with horsy galloping). He calls (if one can be said to do so in mime-grunts) for volunteers to play these and conducts a reasonably recognisable version of the Blue Danube Waltz. Now, there was obviously some connection here that I didn’t altogether catch, but eventually I gathered that the musical instruments that toot, tinkle and plunk fitfully throughout the show are the cues for actions from the actors who rush hither and yon across the stage. It makes for restless, frenzied scenes but that doesn’t matter, for the point is clearly made that a wedding causes lots of fuss.
Thus the show is billed as being “totally controlled by the audience” but is this stretching the point – sometimes obscurely. Actually, the musicians’ random tooting and shaking indicate which tag the actors should take, depicting their characters for the night – bride, bridegroom, bridesmaid, groomsman.
There’s heaps of convoluted plot in Dimboola, and perhaps Randomania could have emulated this more by tightening the structure and enlarging content. In the end, it all comes down to six attractive lively young people having a lot of fun on stage, egged on by their mates. When they’re singing and dancing they really shine, with strong voices, good movement and choreography, lots of vitality. (I can’t tell you the name of the choreographer as there was no printed program and I didn’t catch the name in the thank-yous at the end, but the moves were generally crisp and well coordinated.) I rather wished there was more singing, for the extended spells of rushing to and fro palled, and even became exhausting – and I was just sitting down!
The music, directed by Maitlohn Drew, draws largely on the premise of cobbling together lots of well-known songs, distorting the words into a pastiche. And generally it works well, with lots of laughs. The juxtaposition and conglomeration of Christmas and a wedding gives: “I’m dreaming of a white wedding, just like the one I had last year… may all my weddings be white.” McIntosh reappears as the priest, reading a marriage service of saccharine song grabs cobbled together: “Love lifts us up where we belong, love is all you need, people who need people are the luckiest…” and culminating in the vows; “I-e-e-I will always love you-oo-oo.”
As one who long ago developed a jaded allergy to Jingle Bells I thoroughly enjoyed the cast’s witty multi-cultural rendition, such as Chinese style, Scottish Highland flinging; Michael Flatley-type dance; Middle Eastern dancing complete with snake charmers; indigenous Australian with good emulation of didgeridoo; and gutsy Russian cossacks leaping.
The set is simple but striking in black and blue, with five doors painted with each character in bold line drawing, and another side door through which Josh McIntosh inserts “knock knock who’s there?” type characters increasingly manic in costume, accent and character. With more actual story line and development this could be an excellent addition to the fluffy pantomime festive fare. But why didn’t he join the cast for a curtain call? He won plenty of laughs.
There’s more laughter from the out-takes as we leave; “What a dreadful audience/yeah, did you see the guy picking his nose in the front row/and he ate it.” All good clean fun. Happy Christmas.
Directed by Tim O’Connor
Played 29 November – 9 December, 2006 (Tues – Sat) at 8pm)
Duration: 60 minutes plus, according to whim. No interval