Tripod vs the Dragon
It's hard to know whether to think of Tripod as comedians who do music or musicians who do comedy. The term musical comedy doesn't do them justice on either count. Perhaps they are best described as incredibly gifted musicians cursed with a keen intellect and a wicked sense of humour - and are therefore unable, or more accurately, unwilling, to take themselves seriously. It's the sort of combination only Australia could produce.
One suspects that for Tripod, it would simply be too easy to do a proper musical with proper acting, proper songs and proper staging. Far more challenging to rely on a set that involves using a lightbox and cardboard cut-out props to project the action onto a giant white bedsheet. To write songs about songwriting and wrap the whole thing in an ironic drama about dramatic irony. It's not that they can't be serious. They just find it too boring.
Having demonstrated their musical prowess and mastery of songwriting form in their Song In An Hour days, and with a few earlier stage shows and a Christmas album under their belt, Tripod's latest foray has been to make a romantic epic based in the world of Dungeons and Dragons.
The result, Tripod vs the Dragon, is as silly as you'd expect, and a packed opening night audience of all shapes and sizes lapped it up. As all Tripod shows do, Dragon features plenty of on-stage bickering, wordplay and witty asides, some scripted and some ad-libbed. It has the production values of a primary school play, and Tripod clearly enjoy employing this to great comic effect. There is also plenty of nerd humour.
But if you start to think Tripod is all at undergraduate level, you are reminded with a jolt of their amazing musical talent as soon as they start to sing. Their beautiful pitch-perfect harmonies imbue the frankly ridiculous proceedings with an air of grace and solemnity that is completely unwarranted - one suspects it is this incongruity that Tripod strive for and revel in.
This time they are aided considerably by the presence of homegrown jazz singer Elana Stone, whose striking voice and vocal subtlety puts one instantly in mind of Norah Jones at her best. Playing the eponymous dragon, Stone seems thoroughly delighted to have been roped into the chaos, flashing a geeky grin now and then and rarely missing an opportunity for a scathing put-down. It is also Stone's singing that steals the show - her jazz cabaret numbers Ivory Tower, On Paper and the more upbeat latin-inspired Don't Feel Bad (You Only Killed Me) were clear audience favourites.
Other musical highlights included Taking The Life, a soulful blues ballad about the moral crisis the players face after killing an orc; Gelatinous Love (if only for the line 'my love for you has congealed'); and (You'll Grow Up To Be A Bard), a rousing cajun-folk anthem in homage to the joy of fantasy worlds.
With just the right mix of cute, clever and comedic, Tripod vs the Dragon proves again that Tripod are consummate entertainers at the top of their game. Epic win.
Marnie Foulis & Tripod Entertainment
Tripod versus the Dragon
Directed by Neill Gladwin
Venue: Forum Theatre, Upstairs | Cnr Flinders & Russell Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 25 March - 18 April, 2010
Times: Tue - Sat 9.15pm, Sun 8.15pm
Duration: 90 minutes
Tickets: Full $34, Concession $29, Tightarse Tuesday $29
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849 | At the door
* Licensed venue. Under 18s must be accompanied by a Parent or Legal Guardian.