The good ship Porthole into the minds of the vanquished has done well on the comedy and fringe circuit, playing the Adelaide Fringe and being nominated for best new comer at the 2006 Melbourne International Comedy festival and is now Edinburgh bound. So, what’s on board?
Engaging, intriguing, mysterious, elusive - I could work my way through the thesaurus to give you adjectives that describe the show. A Porthole into the minds of the vanquished is just that - a porthole, a tiny vantage point which could do with some widening. For all the shows frenetic ‘Monty Python-esque’ charm, bizarre circumstances and characters I couldn’t help but feel like there was something amiss, something awry. So, then, what was it? It certainly wasn’t either of the writer/performers Warwick Allsopp or Tamlyn Henderson - they were brilliant. Their characters were far from conventional, they were fun and engaging and throughout the nauseating pace of their show their natural charm shone through. It certainly wasn’t the music. The songs were fun, the tunes catchy and the lyrics clever, the two are obviously wordsmiths as well as avid character performers. The production is of a great standard, the direction excellent. The entire show plays out not unlike a live BBC recording of a radio show, I suppose giving credence to their ‘Imagine The Goons on acid’ tagline.
Porthole has a great way of making you acquainted with its richly defined characters, and taking you into the circumstances in which we find them. In a manor of seconds you’re flying through a game show, to a radio call in show, to a horoscope reading all a little off beat, you’re quite familiar with the format although you don’t exactly recognise the characters, a lot of the vignettes feeling much like Roald Dahl’s fractured fairytales.
The segues between vignettes are seamless, the character transitions seamless, the writing bizarre and twisted. I only felt like there was something more that I wanted out of it. I wondered at times, whether I was the one amiss as the whole Studio erupted with uproarious guffaws that seemed out of sync with what was occurring on stage. I also wondered whether much of the material had in fact been cobbled together from a plethora of WAAPA in jokes.
As for this undefinable missing element, perhaps it’s as simple as I didn’t see enough of the talent presented before me, and believe me it was plentiful. The pace and rhythm was appropriate the heightened style of the production. I became very familiar with their characters - Wang, Ainsley and also Aaron (Erin!?) the hapless game show contestant forced to answer questions like “Roald Dahl - Children’s author or Indian Muesli?” The show wasn’t under suffrage from any convention, characters ran free at the drop of hat, segues were perfect, the songs ranging in musical style, and I can in no way flaw either of the performers or the mystical sound scape provided by Jeremy Brennen.
I only feel that the show could benefit from a more definable tie to a central theme as a springboard for exploring and satirising the forms they did (infomercials, jingles etc), then upgrading from a porthole to a French window!
The Studio At Sydney Opera House
in association with Potted Meat Productions presents
A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished
The Studio | Sydney Opera House
Thur 21 (preview), Fri 22 & Sat 23 June at 8.15pm; Fri 29 and Sat 30 June at 9.15pm
$30 ($25 preview) & $20 conc
(02) 9250 7777 or sydneyoperahouse.com/thestudio