Tribes of Avalon

(Cement Box Theatre)


By Matthew Brown, Benjamin Williams, and the Cast and Crew of Tribes of Avalon

Company Underground Productions

Amateur production

The program of this highly energised, highly original and highly entertaining production informs that, In the early 1970s, for reasons undisclosed, The University of Queensland’s Vice Chancellery gave directions that maintenance of its teaching facility, the Avalon Theatre, was to cease. In 2004 the Avalon was closed…due to structural damage caused by termite infestation. At that time the theatre was home to UQ’s drama program and to two of Brisbane’s leading independent theatre companies, the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble (QSE) and Zen Zen Zo (ZZZ).

These are the Tribes of Avalon of the title, and if I read correctly, all are represented in the production.

Born from improvisation and gestated over a lengthy period, the mystical musical (think Pink Floyd) allegory, with its cast of thousands, both celebrates and eulogises a theatre space in which many of this state’s theatre notables spent their formative creative energies. This play, the production and the cast pay them vibrant and moving homage.

Director Sarah Thomasson, working in a minimalist and effectively flexible set by Rob Butterworth, reveals herself as a talent to be nurtured. Rarely in a large cast production have I seen such a controlled evenness of performance, or level of infectious energy and enthusiasm.

The packed house was treated to a night of theatre as it should be, in celebration of a formative icon, while raising middle finger to things as they’ve become. When a full house applauds spontaneously throughout and rises to join the dancing at final curtain, something very special is happening.

In such ensemble playing it is almost a pity to mention only a few in particular. All gave their all, and everyone in the house received and appreciated it. Jessamy Ross, Mathew Brown and Kieren Davey deserve special mention. However, Jeremy Wood as the finally redeemed villain Sowilo, gave such subtlety of gesture with his head, snake-like tongue and (when required) rap delivery, as made one want to hiss. He was nicely counter-balanced by the rich voice of Rob Butterworth as his 2IC. Although sometimes indistinct, Villy’s Jesta took the stage on every appearance. But with his final touches as Binh, Tom Kenny’s pink high heels and appreciation of an item of Sowilo’s clothing capped a performance revealing an engaging and compelling comic talent.

In two words – Bravo, ALL!

Directed by Sarah Thomasson

Playing until August 5 Wed – Sat at 8pm.

Duration : 2hours 20 mins including interval

— Ron Finney
(Performance seen: Wed 2nd August 2006)