03 April 2011

Review: Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever)

 Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever)
La Mama
29 April 2010
Courthouse Theatre
to 10 April

We sit through a lot of meh theatre, but we keep going back because we know that every now and then there's a show that leaves us feeling so happy that we fall asleep smiling that night and wake up with the same grin. I had one of those moments at the 2008 Melbourne Fringe at Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever) and I still think it's one of the most gorgeous shows ever.

Sarah Collins's wrote and tells us the story of Kevin John and his quest to win the Jump Rope For Heart competition with his remedial class schoolmates. As narrator, she effortlessly slips in and out of character and each mad, broken and glorious person is so vivid that it's too easy to forget that it's Sarah in a hat.  The 2011 La Mama version is structurally tighter and Sarah is a more confident performer, but it maintains the joy, love and refreshing originality of the first season. And it's still bitterly and painfully funny.

Sarah writes from the heart. Sure her mind understands the components of story, has a marvellous grasp of metaphor ("the Milk Arrowroot and watered-down church cordial of short courses") and creates imagery so clear that I swear I've seen a Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Parade (and I've never been near Toowoomba) – but this is technical stuff that writers have to learn. Her writing reaches us because she loves every character she's created. Each are so complete and so real that we can't help but feel every bit of their pain, frustration and joy.

Working with director Yvonne Virsik doesn't hurt either. Yvonne is a director who find things in a script that the writers didn't know they created, and she consistently brings out the strengths that her performers never knew they had.  Sarah's writing is wonderful, but Yvonne ensures that the story is shared with the audience.

As the Comedy Festival is in full swing, shows like this can slip off the radar. Don't let it. Once you've met Kevin John, Wren, Julie, Fairlie Pony and everyone else from Toowoomba, they will be with you forever. You will leave the thearte seeing the greatness in everyone – even in yourself – and have a whole new relationship with the letter D.

PS. I've searched for a negative (because isn't that what reviewers do?), so... Mel disappears in the narrative. Julie is so wonderful at the end (I LOVE her), but I'd love to see Mel again.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com