5 Mistakes That Changed History.
Presented by Paul Coulter The Bally. Gluttony. Adelaide Fringe February
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Paul Coulter could be the kind of
history teacher that every child would love to have, His passion for history is
boundless. In 5 Mistakes That Changed History, he excites an interest in five
historical events that he claims changed history because of a mistake, an error
in judgement or an unintended action. With the enthusiasm of a child opening a
birthday present and the energy of a sports competitor he launches into the
impact that five historical figures had on the world. In the age old tradition
of storytelling, he holds his audience spellbound as he recounts the stories of
microbiologist Alexander Fleming who invented with Adelaide’s own Howard Florey
Penicillin, Stanley Philip Lord, captain of the SS Californian at the time of
the sinking of the Titanic, Cleopatra, the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs,
Richard the Lionheart and Mary Reibey, whose image features on the $20 note.
Each of these historical personages was responsible directly or indirectly in
initiating dramatic events in history. .
Combining stand-up comedy with carefully researched and fascinating historical fact, Coulter explains how Fleming inadvertently left mould to grow on his petri dish and later observed how it attacked the bacteria. He informs the audience that Stanley Philip Lord told his crew to sleep and ignored the distress signals from the Titanic because he was so tired. Love was indeed blind for Cleopatra whose passion for Marc Antony led to her defeat and loss of the Egyptian throne. Richard the Lionheart’s gallivantings through the Crusades and squandering of England’s treasury led to the implementation of the Magna Carta and convicted horse stealer and transported convict Mary Reibey eventually introduced banking to the new colony. Coulter’s outstanding storytelling is completely believable, and the curious among his audience should be instantly inspired to fact check on Wikipedia. What I would guarantee is that after his animated and engaging performance the young lad in the front row will never forget the five characters or the mistakes they made that turned the tide of history in different ways. Like Coulter, he is very likely to study an undergrad degree majoring in history.
At the end of each story an actor
appears in character to bring to life the subject of each history. Raphael
Stephens plays the messy Fleming, the sleepy Lord and the pompous Richard,
while Bec Melrose enacts an arrogant Caesar and a grumpy Mary Reibey. These are
closing captions to Coulter’s storytelling, but highly caricatured and fleetingly
presented. I couldn’t help feeling that this was an unnecessary add on to
Coulter’s effective performance. If intended to inject a theatrical impact then
it might have been better to incorporate greater interaction between
storyteller and character and with a more carefully written script. Stephens
and Melrose played for laughs but it appeared too much like an improvised
moment than a carefully developed idea. After all Coulter’s historical
personages were not fools and not all accidental mistakes are foolish.
5 Mistakes That Changed History is a show that intrigues,
fascinates and educates. History rhymes with mystery and there are many truths
that lie hidden inviting investigation and deduction. Coulter’s enthusiasm is contagious
and the audience who hung on every word are very likely to regard historical
fact with more scrutiny after a most illuminating and entertaining hour under
the Bally’s domed roof. Coulter significantly concludes with a moral as every
good story does and what better than the words of one of history’s greatest
enigmas. The words of Winston Churchill bring this entertaining show to a
close. “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to
continue that counts.” It is advice tha the young boy in the front row will