Monday, March 9, 2015

McNIRT HATES DIRT at the Adelaide Fringe

McNirt Hates Dirt.

Written and designed by Miranda Hampton. Presented by McNirt Collective. Various venues. Adelaide Fringe 2015 February 16-March 14 2015.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Poster Design by Brett Wheeler

It is always a delight to come across a children’s theatre piece that ticks all the boxes. Miranda Hampton’s McNirt HatesDirt is an utterly enchanting, gentle and thoroughly engaging story of a man who hates dirt and his neighbor who loves plants and the organic thrill of getting her hands into the soil. It is a recipe for conflict, but Hampton handles the story with such delicacy and appreciation of the child’s world, that McNirt hates The Dirt is a template for all that is wonderful in children’s theatre.
Guitarist Elliot Howard. Ashton Malcolm as Gerty, Tim Overton as McNirt and technician James Oborn
 in McNirt Hates the Dirt. Potograph by Miranda Hampton
A room in the Port Noarlunga Institute is converted into a theatre space, with material encircling audience and performance. On the floor old material is spread out to represent the ground and a hills hoist structure supports electric light bulbs that are stretched out above the performance space. An intimate audience sits on a row of chairs and upon mats, especially allowing children to be close to the action.
McNirt with a sponge
Mr. McNirt (Tim Overton)and his neighbor Gerty (Ashton Malcolm) open with a charming song McNirt Hates Dirt, before greeting the children and launching into the simple story. McNirt, dressed in shirt and tie, is a fastidious hater of dirt. He is appalled when Gerty asks him to mind her lily while she is away, and promptly spills dirt throughout his house, much to his disgust. Struck by a bright idea, he decides to invent a dirt cleaning mixture that turns Gerty’s lily into clean air, much to Gerty’s utter dismay upon her return. A friendship is shattered and McNirt begins to be aware of the consequences of his actions when there is no response to his knocking upon Gerty’s door. Even McNirt can come to realize that friendship is more important than the abolition of dirt. With the help of children who operate rain instruments and wind sounds under the watchful eye of   technician, James Oborn, who provides the claps of thunder, McNirt works through day and night to dig and plant and grow a garden to win back his friend.
McNirt with boxes

Spoken in rhyme, the dialogue flows naturally and truthfully, ideal for young and old alike and poetically capturing the simple and delightful charm of Hampton’s story. I couldn’t help thinking that this would make an excellent young children’s picture book for any publisher interested in new Australian writing for young children. The two actors work superbly together, engaging with their wide-eyed audience, without artifice or pretension. The play’s message of love of the natural environment is gently revealed with purposeful assistance by young members in the audience, who are given a packet of seeds by the actors as they leave the theatre.  
Gerty miming a snail

 Writer and designer, Miranda Hampton with actors Overton and Malcolm, composer Tim Moore, guitarist/musician Elliot Howard and technician Oborn have woven a delightful, original story that has been a highlight of my visit to the Adelaide Fringe. The elements of children’s theatre for the very young are perfectly interwoven throughout a performance that will leave you with a warm feeling and a happy heart, and, hopefully a love of dirt.
From small things big things grow, and this production deserves to blossom into full flower. 
Tim Overton as Mr. McNirt and Ashton Malcolm as Gerty in Miranda Hampton's McNirt HatesDirt