Monday, November 9, 2009

The Messiah

Tasmanian Theatre Company
Backspace Theatre
Every Thur - Sat during November
8.15pm (Special Family Matinee on Sat 21 at 2.15pm)

by Stephenie Cahalan

Not since Floating and the great Hugh Hughes experience (Ten Days on the Island 2009) have I left a theatre with aching cheeks from smiling so much. Full of clowning, miming and ridiculous slapstick humour, The Messiah had the audience hooting with laughter.

Iain Lang and Guy Hooper are the National Theatre of Tranmere’s ensemble of Desmond Dingle and Raymond Box. Joined by (NTT fixture) grand dame Mrs Le Mottee, played by the perfectly cast Noreen Le Mottee, the three put on a Christmas spectacle like no other. Where else can you seen two actors playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, God, Archangel Gabriel, the three wise men, Herod, shepherds, souk-salesmen and more.

Rough-hewn sets and rough-hewn costumes in the rough-hewn Backspace Theatre provide the necessary additions to the story, but it was Lang and Hooper’s performances that were a true delight. In the tradition of the classic comedy routine, Lang played the insufferable straight man to Hooper’s buffoon. They appeared to have fun in what were highly physical performances. Written by Patrick Barlow, The Messiah has been adapted to suit the Tasmanian context and it works well. Our audience, a good representation of ages 12 and up, was more than happy to get drawn into the fun of the production.

The Messiah is so worth seeing, even just for Hooper’s mime sequence and the touching homage to Digger, the highly-decorated 127 year-old Kelpie. It is the perfect primer for Christmas-mania that is bearing down upon us. I will invoke it during dreaded long-wait-at-the-till experiences, and use the memory of Mrs Le Mottee’s Bizet to block out the ubiquitous Christmas muzac.

While Desmond’s diva dummy-spit in the second half of the show is amusing, a little trimming to shorten the second act would not go astray as those extra ten minutes did not add substantially to the story.

If you have been thinking that you should get to the theatre and that you should patronise our local company then The Messiah is the answer. The Tasmanian Theatre Company deserves our support and this production, especially with the long season, will allow you to perfectly satisfy all those ‘shoulds’ before the end of year, leaving no excuses to miss out.

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