Colloquially, a cut snake is the benchmark for madness. Are ya mad as one, or madder than? Cut Snake, the show, is definitely madder. It’s also brilliant.
It starts with an unusual parade, as the audience follow a banner adorned with a googly eyed door snake through the streets of North Melbourne to a secret venue. Now any show that kicks off like that is getting right into the spirit of the Fringe and the rest of the show lives up to expectations.
Coming from Arthur productions, a side project from members of Griffin theatre in Sydney, it is a tightly scripted and well performed piece of joyous absurdism. Written by Dan Giovannoni and NIDA-trained playwright Amelia Evans, the story is a magical realist fable about improbable romances, impossible dreams and unanswerable questions. Following the misadventures of three friends and a talking snake, the tale jumps back and forth through time, shifting from recognisable pastiches of ordinary life to flights of fantasy and back. The tone shifts with equal fluidity from high comedy to genuinely affecting drama.
Its cast of three – burlesque performer Kiki Coriander (Catherine Davies), Kevin Keirnan-Molloy and Julia Billington – are a slick unit, equally able to commit to emotive moments or to give full flight to the ridiculous while always keeping their discipline as physical performers. The snake is a long green sock, voiced by Billington but puppeteered by all of them at one point or another, and an irresistible character all on her own.
Directed by Paige Rattray, this show is a case study in how to do absurdist comedy well. Absurdism can stumble if it tries to add pathos late in the piece, or spins away in mounting ridiculousness, but Cut Snake plays its cards early, establishing both the surreal tone and the dramatic stakes in the opening scenes. From then on you buy into every coil of the twisting plot because at all times the characters are believably engaged in their world. There are touches of whimsical chase-your-dreams, believe-in-magic myth making, but Giovannoni/Evans’s script undercuts these cliches, making use of anti-climax and subtleties in character change to craft a meaningful story on these themes.
In the grand tradition of absurdist theatre, Cut Snake’s target is the fundamental ridiculousness of life and death and how to respond to it. Sometimes that’s through railing against the universe. Sometimes it’s by climbing a mountain with gypsies, chasing the secret of time travel or romancing a talking serpent. Take whichever approach you like, but I can recommend seeing Cut Snake as a good way to give yourself one extraordinary hour at least.
by Amelia Evans and Dan Giovannoni
Directed by Paige Rattray
Venue: Fringe Hub - Meet on the Steps | Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Dates: Sep 28 – Oct 8, 2011