BREAKING NEWS: Bat Boy sighting - 20-24 August at Chapel Off Chapel!
The Weekly World News is an American faux-tabloid newspaper dealing with the silly and strange – from the reporting of alien sightings to the reporting of the fattest cat sightings, and an article on a ‘Bat Boy’ found living in a cave on the outskirts of America. This idea captured the imagination of writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, and Bat Boy: The Musical was born, premiering in 1997.
From the seemingly simple, if not a little sinister, idea of a half-bat, half-boy, Farley and Flemming, along with Laurence O’Keefe created a story set in the small town of Hope Falls. The story begins when three teenage cavers discover and are attacked by the Bat Boy and bring him to the town in the hope that the veterinarian, Dr Parker, will kill him. However, with the arrival of the Bat Boy, the whole town (...and the story) starts to go a little batty – the ranchers, whose cows have been dying mysteriously, find in Bat Boy the perfect scapegoat; Edgar (formerly Bat Boy) is cared for by the local veterinarian’s wife and taught to speak (with a posh English accent courtesy of BBC language tapes); Dr Parker becomes determined to destroy the boy to whom is wife is so devoted; Pan, the Greek god of fertility arrives to serenade and bless the love between the Parker’s daughter, Shelley, and Edgar... and this is all before the final twist in the tail and the ensuing tragedy!
Octave Theatre is a non-professional musical theatre company dedicated to performing not only as a means in itself, but as a means to create thought and evoke change both within individuals and the community. Their production of Bat Boy then, a gothic tragic-comedy with a hint of the batty, is the ideal production, along with the current production of Wicked, to provoke reflection on our own experiences of alienation, while also letting us relate to the townsfolk’s scape-goating of the boy.
Aiming to achieve the highest possible production standards with the available resources, Octave Theatre has created a production on what could be described as a shoe-string budget. However, with clever use of minimal set elements, lighting, a strong ensemble cast of performers... and shadow puppets, the production was of a very professional standard. When entering the theatre, memories of a bad community production of Fame: The Musical, were evoked, but my worries proved to be unfounded.
The performers made the show with their buzzing, at times, maniacal energy and enthusiasm and great big belter voices (I must note that amplification was totally unnecessary in such a small performing space). Some of the ensemble choreography could have been more polished, but the singing, moving from country, to rap, ballad, rock, and gospel made up for it, with the highlight being the opening of the act two - ‘A Joyful Noise’ led by Reverend Hightower (Jez Hunghanfoo) and the congregation. Another highlight, and show-stopper, with some members of the audience almost in tears of laughter and others in stunned silence, came with the arrival of the Greek god, Pan, and Dean Drieberg’s rendition of ‘Children, Children’ accompanied by horny animal shadow puppets and a giant furry phallus protruding from Drieberg’s groin. Mention must also be given to Scott Mackenzie’s creation of the tongue-poking, blood-sucking Bat Boy - suitably cringe worthy!
In the director’s notes, the audience is reminded not to deny the inner beast, as they suggest, maybe there is a little bit of the Bat Boy inside us all... as well as a little bit of the hicks’ hatred and loathing. As an audience member, questions of how I would behave in a similar real-life situation could not be avoided – even if Mackenzie’s characterisation made it easy to see the hicks’ point of view!
Octave Theatre Presents
Bat Boy: the Musical
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran Melways: Map 2L Ref J10
Dates: 20 – 24 August 8pm
Tickets: $31 Full, $27 Concession, $26 Groups 10 + (+transaction fee)
All tickets $25 Thurs & Fri
Bookings: 03 8290 7000 or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au