Brave New World Order (BNWO) is an excellent well, it’s hard to say exactly what but it is excellent. It is billed as a serious rock comedy, and that’s close, but it’s also a drama, tragedy, farce, musical comedy and rock opera. Handling that combination is a massive task yet somehow director Brett Heath and his team make it work with a meaningful, integrated and incredibly professional presentation that sets you thinking, laughing and beating time.
Stop me if you’ve heard it before, but the basic plot goes like this. Rhino Ron Pucker (Steven Grives) is the recently deceased CEO of Global Corp, murdered by his brother Claudius (Brian Cavanagh) who has married Ron’s trophy wife Gertrude (Dragitsa Debert) and is plotting to take control of the empire from Ron’s profligate son Hamlet (Peter Rasmussen), who in turn is aided and abetted by girl friend and anti-globalisation activist Ophelia (Jacy Lewis). All this is set against troubled times with international terrorism, September 11 and War in Iraq.
Sound familiar? In the program Heath actually apologises “to Mr William Shakespeare for making free with his play, but I am sure I have done no lasting damage. After all, Hamlet is a pretty good play”. So too is BNWO with bits of the original Hamlet weaving in and out of the play…sorry… serious rock comedy… I mean …production. Then there is the music and lyrics by Clarry Evans, performed by a cast and chorus of wonderfully gifted voices and backed by an excellent five-piece rock group that includes musical director Nigel Kimber and is ably assisted by chorus member Matt Newman who also dabbles on guitar. There is quite a bit of doubling up and multi-skilling by some talented people who seem to shift seamlessly from actor, to singer, to musician, to stage hand, to whatever tasks need a fresh injection of enthusiasm or exuberance.
This is a completely home-grown production, from writing partners Brett Heath and Clarry Evans through the cast and crew. Given the subject matter, a farce based around war, terrorism and globalisation, there is always a risk of the show descending into heavy-handed polemic, but surprisingly that never happens. So congratulations to everyone involved. Brisbane should be as proud of this team as it is of the Broncos, Lions or Reds because BNWO is another Brisbane showpiece.
Reviewing these efforts is a critic’s dream. I couldn’t find one aspect of the show that I needed to skim over, mask with carefully selected words, or damn with faint praise. The hardest part was working out who and what to feature from a show that is so full of almost everything that is good in theatre, not least the incredible energy generated in the intimacy of the Visy Theatre.
What a cast. Steven Grives, Brian Cavanagh, Warwick Comber as Horatio the lawyer and Tom Jones impersonator, Dragitsa Debert, Jacy Lewis, Peter Rasmussen, Jo Thomas as Rosey, a deliciously seductive vamp, and David Knijnenburg as Barry Jumper, a shameless talk show host. All should take a bow. Brian Cavanagh deserves special mention for two delightful musical scenes, the first with Jo Thomas, “Ron is not so dead”, in which this unlikely twosome interact in a very seductive, comic duet. Later, in “Prodigal Radical”, he goes retro remembering his hippy years. This includes milking a joint for great comic and musical effect.
The program tells us that Louise Muller of of the chorus is organising a vocal ensemble of BNWO cast members. So two questions. Where and when will they start performing? And what about a CD of the 14 songs in BNWO? It would make an excellent memento of a memorable performance.