Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Messiah

Tasmanian Theatre Company
Backspace Theatre, Hobart

By Kylie Elizabeth Eastley

The Messiah is a great parody of every megalomaniac in the theatre world who has ever wanted to re-enact Ben Hur on their local stage, with a props list including a Hessian toga, a ball of twine and a bottle of Clag glue.

Desmond Olivier Dingle, played by Iain Lang, proudly bursts forth as the artistic director of the National Theatre of Tranmere (NTT) to share his personal spiritual journey. In his 70’s-inspired beige suit, and rouge covered cheeks, (I suspect they do their own makeup) Lang beautifully portrays this character, invoking our cringes, dislike and even a little bit of pity at times.

Lang plays the straight man and is joined by Guy Hooper as Raymond Box, the inept but enthusiast second string of the NTT. Together they ambitiously recreate the Christmas story with the two actors playing the entire cast including Mary, Joseph, God, Herod…you get the picture.

To raise the calibre of the production Dingle employs Mrs Le Mottee, played by Noreen Le Mottee, to sing highlights from The Messiah by Handel. Her random interjections along with the chaos of Dingle and Box as they flip between enacting the play and disagreeing on acting ability create a hilarious ride for the audience.

Hooper is fantastic as he mispronounces words and physically does just about everything you can do on a small stage including a version of the military tattoo. There were many highlights, but the depiction of Michelangelo’s fresco Creation of Adam by the two actor’s sticks in my mind, as does the mime sequence by Hooper in the second half of the show. Perhaps there could have been some tightening up in the second half during the shepherd scene as this did drag and didn’t seem to be vital for the narrative.

Credit should be given to designer, John Bowling who provided clever tinker toy props that added to the sense of amateur. I particularly like the excerpt from The Secret Diaries of Desmond Olivier Dingle included in the program.

The Messiah is great fun, not just for the audience but for the players. This production must have been a relief to undertake in light of the turbulent year for the Tasmanian Theatre Company. Audiences should get to this show and immerse themselves in the world of Dingle and Box as it is something extraordinary.

The Messiah continues its season every Thursday & Saturday 8.15pm till the end of November with a family matinee on Saturday 21st at 2.15pm.

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.