A production of Albury's HotHouse Theatre, directed by Queensland Theatre Company's Associate Director Jon Halpin, The Messiah is at the beginning of an extensive regional tour touching base at a number of centres in each of the mainland states. To date there have been performances in Gosford and Shepparton. The Frankston Arts Centre is the latest venue.
The Messiah was written by Patrick Barlow, who conceived and founded the two-man National Theatre of Brent (UK), noted for theatre, television and radio performances. The current production has additional material by John Ramm, Jude Kelly and Julian Hough, material which gives an amusing local and topical twist to some of the jokes.
Halpin last directed The Messiah for Queensland Theatre Company in 2002 with Jean-Marc Russ as Leslie Barrymore Locket and Hayden Spencer as Owen Blunt. In this production Russ and Spencer are joined by Carita Farrer as Mrs Barbara Redmond Bird.
Anyone who has been involved with amateur theatre will appreciate the task of writer/director Leslie Barrymore Locket (Russ). His main cast member, Owen Blunt (Spencer) is enthusiastic and over-confident as a result of undertaking some acting courses. Blunt does not hesitate to be 'spontaneous', at one stage adding a cat to the script which Locket immediately cuts out! His second actor, Mrs Barbara Redmond Bird (Farrer) upsets the opening scenes by arriving early. Dressed in nineteenth century splendour, she ignores the performance in process, commandeers her chair and seats herself to one side of the stage. Whilst Farrer is quite amazing in terms of the sound effects she produces, including song, percussion and impersonations of animal calls, she is more often sitting silently in her chair, sipping on her cup of tea, whilst her body language does all the talking.
Spencer's Blunt is hilarious, managing to deliver lines as only the most inexperienced actor would, using physical humour and constantly tripping over the highbrow words that Locket, with his upper crust English accent introduces to the script. Russo's Locket ranges from super-confident director to insecure performer, at times looking as suave as Errol Flynn, at others looking like a cringing, bedraggled version of the same as he struggles to re-write his script on the run, work with a lighting and stage director from hell, direct and perform. He creates a perfect comic foil for the other two characters.
Generally the pace is good although I couldn't help but feel that, at almost two hours with a twenty minute break, the performance is a little over-long. Whilst the first half flew, the comedy tended to become a little predictable part way through the second half. This said there are plenty of surprising twists and many a laugh to be had.
The Messiah celebrates, with its audience, the joys and woes of being human in a less than perfect world and delivers a night of tension easing laughter.
Hothouse Theatre and Frankston Arts Centre present
by Patrick Barlow
Venue: Frankston Arts Centre | Cnr Davey & Young Streets, Frankston
Dates & Times: Tuesday 27 February 8pm, Wednesday 28 February 1pm & 8pm
Tickets: Adult $42, PSSU $38, U/26years $27, Matinee $31
Bookings: 9784 1060 or artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au
The Messiah is touring extensively. For further information goto www.hothousetheatre.com.au
20-21 Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford
23-24 Westside Performing Arts Centre, Shepparton
27 – 28 Frankston Arts Centre
3 Mildura Arts Centre
6-10 Geelong Performing Arts Centre
14 Wyndham Cultural Centre, Werribee
16 Portland Arts Centre
20 Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Mt.Gambier
22 Brenton Langbein Theatre, Tanunda
24 Chaffey Theatre, Renmark
27 Keith Mitchell Theatre, Port Pirie
29 Middleback Theatre, Whyalla
31 Nautilus Theatre, Port Lincoln
3 Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
5 Margaret River Cultural Centre
10 Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre
14 Cardinia Cultural Centre, Pakenham
17 Colac Performing Arts Centre
19-20 The Capital Theatre, Bendigo
23-24 Townsville Civic Theatre
27-28 Cairns Civic Theatre
1 Mackay Entertainment Centre
3-4 QUT Gardens Theatre, Brisbane
8-13 Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong
16-17 Jetty Theatre, Coffs Harbour
19 Orange Civic Theatre
22-June 2 Glen Street Theatre, Belrose