Shaken Not Stirred

(Six of the Best/Metro Arts)


From the moment MC Kevin Lowe stands on a make-shift stage to deliver a mini-lecture on the history of Roger Moore, the audience understands their role in “Shaken not Stirred”: we are supporting our friends as they make fools of themselves. From the beginning we’re on the actors’ side. Yes they are a sorry, shambled group but we like them!

That’s the key to this piece of light-hearted fun you end up liking everyone on stage because it’s all so unpretentious and done in such good humour.

“Shaken not Stirred” presents an improvised take on the James Bond series. Directed by Colin Smith, the play is presented by “Six of the Best” an improvisation troupe set up in 1997 to present play-length, character-driven improvisations (as opposed to the four minute skits of Theatresports games). The troupe has made a happy choice in sending up the Bond series, and take full advantage of the films’ repertoire of gags, stock characters and storylines. The troupe is also assisted by a rotating cast of “special guest agents”, and some inspired use of an overhead projector by Louise Callinan.

As the audience enter they write down suggestions that are placed in envelopes to be opened by the actors during the play. The actors lope along, interjecting audience suggestions within a structured sequence (at least that’s how it appeared to me). Usually the rehearsed bits work the best, and I was disappointed to see that some of the audience suggestions were not developed through the work. (It would have been interesting to see how 007 saved the fate of Morris dancing from the evil clutches of Dr Jarlsborg.) Often the audience’s suggestions add humour through their sheer incongruity with what is happening onstage.

The show is being performed every Saturday night for six weeks, and each week focuses on a particular actor who played the famous spy. This week, Russel Lowe’s performance as Roger Moore succeeded in conveying 007’s superior, patronising nature (of course he “majored in everything at Oxford”) but needed more energy to carry off the physical stunts and gags.

My compliments go to the audience member who suggested the name “Juicy Muffin” for the Bond girl played by Sue Mawer. Mawer gave an effective send up of the “Eastern Bloc” spy. She seemed a little self-conscious in improvisations, but built to a powerful comic climax in the second act. Brad Daniels also gave a strong performance as a stupid henchman.

As a whole, however, the performances felt a bit apathetic the stakes were not very high, and were not helped by frequent ill-planned lapses into black outs. (Especially when the actors tried to cover up by asking “What happened to the lights?”)

But I did laugh. It was a fun night, and the performance captured the very bad sexual innuendoes of the Roger Moore Bond films. Bond’s line: “I love to see Muffin diving” wrapped up the show with a suitably dodgy coda! Queensland’s Online Stage Magazine

— Joanne Loth
(Performance seen: Fri 27th July 2001)