Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Boy Girl Wall by Matthew Ryan and Lucas Stibbard

Boy Girl Wall by Matthew Ryan and Lucas Stibbard.  The Escapists in association with Critical Stages, at The Street Theatre August 22 – September 1.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

It’s just wonderful to see theatre pure and simple, in the ancient story-telling tradition from the bush camp, the jongleurs and jesters, through commedia to today’s stand up comedians.  Boy Girl Wall can only be called larrikin theatre, turning conventions upside down, spoofing everything including itself, laughing with us at ourselves.

It is, of course, a love story – of Thom and Alitha – and the Wall between them that just wants to bring them together, surely a theme that begins for most of us with the Midsummer Night’s Dream story of Pyramus and Thisbe and the Wall with its chink (Shakespeare).  But, in our workaday world, they are not rude mechanicals but an IT worker who should have been a supernova astronomer and a writer and illustrator of children’s books, whose monsters make the children cry.

No matter that the Narrator, played by Lucas Stibbard (he plays all the other characters too), will tell you that “This is not a love story...This is a story about love”, don’t you worry about that (these are Queenslanders, so I thought I should put a bit of dear old Jo Bjelke-Petersen in here) – Love Conquers All (Chaucer) in the end even though neither Thom or Alitha have any idea it’s going to happen.  Nor does the Wall.

The script comes and goes in between improvised back-chatting with the audience, but Stibbard remarkably never loses track of the non-sequiturs.  With high quality mime, split-second transformations from character to character, including all sorts of inanimate objects, giving swooping magpies their well-deserved come-uppance, and all done with nothing more than a swish of his hair, Stibbard tells us the history of the universe via the ruminations of an electricity swtichboard – and shows us how it all leads to a kiss in the dark.

He doesn’t quite do it all on his own.  Visibly on the side is Nerida Waters, doing what used to be done in the BBC radio studios for the live audience of the Goon Show – sound effects and music (which she also composed) as required.  And in the bio-box were Matthew Ryan and Sarah Winter, working lighting designed by Keith Clark.

In the best of those ancient traditions, satire rules, as it should.  Fun is fun, and never the twain shall meet (Rabbie Burns?), but that kiss was greeted with a satisfied sigh, and very enthusiastic applause in appreciation of enjoyable, skilful, intelligent theatre – pure and simple.  

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