Left – Mark Dessaix, Gideon Cordover and Carl Batchelor. Photo – Heidrun Lohr
Playing at the Street Theatre this week is Monkey Baa's latest incarnation of one of Australia's best-named plays, The Bugalugs Bum Thief. No, it's not quite Shakespeare, but it's closer than one might assume.
Its central character, Skeeter Anderson, just one young member of Bugalugs' coastal community, wakes up one morning to find his bum is missing, which proves inconvenient for him. He soon finds that just about everyone in town has had their bum stolen, including his friend Mick Misery, for whom it is not so inconvenient, as it means his mum can't smack him. The advantages of life without a bum, however, do not prove to outweigh the disadvantages, and Skeeter sets out to identify the bum thief and locate everyone's bums.
The entire town is brought to life through the generous energy of just three performers who present mums, dads, teachers, police and sailors as well as their main role as a child. It may not be universally accepted as a compliment, but Gideon Cordover, Carl Batchelor and Mark Dessaix make excellent children, which is particularly helpful when playing to a roomful of them. Their ability to engage their young audience is great, and apart from the occasional flat spot where they stop to encourage a bit of audience interaction, their energy never wavers.
Despite a few moments where the actors struggled to project above the canned music or match its key, there is barely a moment when the suspension of disbelief becomes a challenge. The focus stays firmly on the story, and the actors work hard to keep their volatile audience engaged, and were completely successful during their first performance at The Street Theatre.
A theatre full of kids may not be everyone's cup of tea, but their lack of inhibition must be a boon for any actor, and it certainly reminds me of the pure joy of theatre. Free from the constraints of custom and social expectation, I too, like the hundreds of kids around me, find myself simply responding instinctively to the action on stage. Even I made sure I had a child to justify my presence, but the reality is I'd rather be in an auditorium full of children than an auditorium full of stuffed shirts. And that's got nothing to do with the extra elbow room. Really, it doesn't!
If I have any real complaint, it's simply that there aren't quite enough fart jokes for a show with the word 'bum' in the title. Nonetheless, The Bugalugs Bum Thief is a very enjoyable show that boasts a great plot and impeccable performances. Since it is advertised as being for children aged 4-10, if you happen to be a bit older, you may feel you need to take a friend or relative of that age in order to attend, but it is certainly worthwhile trying to find one, and if you can't find one, go anyway!
Monkey Baa presents
The Bugalugs Bum Thief
Venue: The Street Theatre | 15 Childers Street, Canberra ACT
Dates: 17 – 21 July 2012
Tickets: $15 – $10
Bookings: (02) 6247 1519