(The Case of the Crown v Someone in the Audience)
Rod Quantock, National Trust of Australia (Vic), the Old Melbourne Goal, Justice Experience
19 January 2011
The Old City Watch House
until 11 February
Melbourne's theaterati know that this week a Melbourne-born, 60-something famous boomer writer has been criticised by dumb arse reviewers for creating jaded and dull theatre. It isn't Rod Quantock. If David Williamson made me snooze, Captain Snooze himself woke me up and reminded me that writers do love and trust the intelligence of their audience, that satire should always make me cringe at my own prejudices and that polite twitters can never compare to uncontrollable belly laughs.
If Rod's doing a show, I want to see it. And I'm in a very long queue of people wanting to do the same.
Court in the Act isn't written and as an audience you will be more than a passive bum on a seat. Your bum will start on a wooden bench in a prison cell with some strangers' bums. It could be a cell where Chopper sat or where Ronald Ryan wondered if anyone will even remember his name. If you were arrested in Melbourne before 1994, it may feel too familiar.
The City Watch House closed in 1994 and his been kept the same so that the public can explore. Quantock has done shows, including Coming Clean, in the Watch House and if you've been to one, no one's going to stop you trying to get locked in with him again.
Back in the cell, your cell mates choose a crime and a criminal. When you're let out, it's off to the exercise yard to vote for the best and the winning cases are tried in the Old Magistrates Court – the court where Ned Kelly was sentenced to death. On our night, there was at least one lawyer who had worked professionally in this room and he continued his work nobly defending Colin who stole a famous banana bread recipe. The next case involved insurance fraud, murder and removing sandbags from a flood levee.
As Rod is only one person, the roles of defendant, defence lawyer, court artist, judge, clerk, jury and witnesses are all chosen from the audience. Eager ones can jump in early, others will be chosen by the eager ones and you don't dare throw away your entry raffle ticket.
If audience participation scares the bejesus out of you so much that you'd rather risk Don Parties On and On and On, know that Rod doesn't pick on anyone who can't cope and never leaves anyone stuck for words or embarrassed – unless they bring it on themselves.
I've never been to a Rod Quantock show and seen anyone look grumpy. I can't guarantee you'll love Court in the Act, but I'll think you're a bit odd if you don't. Book for yourself and all your friends. If it were my birthday, I'd make it my party outing and it could be the best date show ever, because you'll know if you share the same sense of humour and discover if they've ever been arrested or like wearing handcuffs.
This review appears on AussieThearte.com
Photos courtesy of court artist A Alexander's new iPhone.