05 July 2007

A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished

A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished
Malthouse Theatre
5 July 2007
Beckett Theatre, CUB MAlthouse

“If that daily pack of Neurofen is not quite masking your existence”, then get ye to A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished. This is the type of cabaret that must be developed, performed, encouraged and seen. It steals from the best, whilst remaining remarkably original and proves that there are always news levels of odd that can be exposed on a stage.

Tamlyn Hendeson and Warick Allsopp are also the type of performers who prove that some really can act, dance, sing, write and be funny. Director Ansuya Nathan has taken what, I suspect, was a rough concept and moulded it into a seamless and tight production.The elements are all verging on perfect, but the synergy isn’t creating a magnificent whole.

The writing is sometimes a bit too smart for its own good and not quite intelligent enough to be brilliant. Lines like, “Dance like thousands of people are craning their necks to see you fail”, rightly create guffaws from the floor, but a lot of the humour felt like an in-joke between the performers, not something they were sharing with the gathered mass. Stronger direction may be needed to convince them to lose the material that they think is hilarious, but is falling flat with the audience.

The quest for surrealism (or is it absurdism?) didn’t shine as brightly as it could have. A sketch like Henry Giffin was only memorable for its great sing-a-longability, not for its content. “Don’t let it be someone you know trapped in a mobile phone.” It’s funny, but it doesn’t fit with the context of the other material and left the audience wondering, rather than laughing. There is intention and meaning in the absurd (and the surreal). Porthole needs a bit more consistency and some anchors to make it a much more rounded and ultimately satisfying work.

I think this will happen as it gets seen more and more. The appeal of Henderson and Allsop alone will continue to move this show from success to success. It actually reminded me of seeing The Doug Anthony Allstars in the 80s (before their commercial success). The content and style are very different, but the originality, the genuine intelligence behind the work and the personalities of the performers shine through the best and the worst of the sketches. I think Porthole will turn into one of those shows that we can boast that we saw before they became famous.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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