Do you like your whimsy mixed with just the right dose of very clever wit? Do you prefer your sentiment sweet rather than saccharine? Do you like seeing acts of an unspeakable nature performed on a sock puppet?
Look, it's hard to know if you are going to like that last part. Until you see Lucas Stibbard doing it in the incredibly brilliant boy girl wall, currently playing at Metro Arts.
Brought to you by The Escapists (Jonathon Oxlade, Matthew Ryan, Lucas Stibbard and Neridah Waters), those ridiculous geniuses and kooky dreamers behind last year's Attack of the Attacking Attackers, boy girl wall is a story about love. More accurately, it's the story about the lead up to a story about love.
Written by Matthew Ryan and Lucas Stibbard, it's about Tom and Alethea, next-door neighbours and strangers in a West End apartment block who are simultaneously experiencing the most dreadful of weeks. They are both of the verge of losing their jobs and careers and they are utterly miserable. Which is why the wall that separates their apartments decides that being together is the best way to bring them both happiness. Yes, in the world of boy girl wall, a building wants to play matchmaker. In this same world, computers named "Dave" get lovesick and overload their motherboards, magpies are filled with murderous intentions, days of the week give you a run down of their likes and dislikes and fuse boxes have epiphanies.
If all of this logic-defying wonder sounds like it could only be created with a cast of thousands and staging to rival a QPAC musical, then that's the other incredible, magical part about boy girl wall.
Stibbard plays every single part himself, from the narrator to the philosophical fuse box, from the days of the week to a living statue. From the scruffily lovable Tom to fiery Alethea. And he does it seamlessly, perfectly; delivering a tight, clever, confident and genius performance. With the simplest slump of his shoulders or downturn of a corner of his mouth he transforms himself into a totally new character. His physicality on stage is awe-inspiring and hilarious to behold as he jumps, runs and dances around like a frenetic, contortionist pogo stick. It's easy to see why, when the show was first staged in Brisbane last year, Stibbard pushed himself to such heights of exertion that he ended up in hospital after two performances. To see him back on stage and doing this show once again is an utter joy.
When it comes to staging, things are just as cleverly scaled back. A piece of chalk, an overhead projector and the walls of the Sue Benner theatre are all that's needed for The Escapists to conjure up the world's of Tom and Alethea. It's no-fuss ingenuity and the audience was audibly delighted as alarm clocks, laptops and even aliens sprung from Stibbard's hand.
The lighting and sound complement the intentionally simple staging. Neridah Waters accompanies Stibbard's action on various sweet percussion instruments including a xylohphone and cowbells and lighting designer Keith Clark uses a considered mix of stark overhead fluoros and perfectly timed warm spotlights.
All of this heightens the joy of the complex, extremely intelligent writing from Ryan and Stibbard. The two have created a love prequel, a rom-com in which there is a lot of com but no cliched rom as the two main characters move and are moved in ever tightening circles towards each other without ever meeting. It's as much an intelligent treatise on the science behind fate and destiny as it is a deliciously dirty stand-up routine.
My single problem with boy girl wall? It ended far too soon. I honestly feel I could have lived in the amazing world of The Escapists for hours and hours more.
The Escapists present
BOY GIRL WALL
by Matthew Ryan and Lucas Stibbard
Venue: Metro Arts, 109 Edward Street, Brisbane
Dates: 4 – 14 August 2010
Times: Tues – Sat @ 7.30pm
Tickets: $20 | $16
Bookings: 07 3002 7100 | www.metroarts.com.au