REVIEW: Rational Treasure
WORDS BY BRENDAN O'SHEA
Earned or not, Pulp seems to have developed a reputation as a news outlet with a fondness for student productions on campus. Try as we might to refute that with some sharply tongued criticism towards future shows, you have to admit that the annual Science Revue makes it hard for us to shake that reputation.
Science Revue is, after all, often regarded as the premier revue of the season. Frequently booking out the York Theatre, the largest of Seymour’s performance spaces, it’s clear that the revue is popular with the theatregoing public.
Yet this year, the ‘science’ of Science Revue was conspicuously absent.
Of course this isn’t to say that directors Steph Ryan and Theo Murray (and assistant director Annabel Cameron) haven’t worked with their cast to produce something which lives up to the prestige of Science Revue – far from it. In fact, the absence of science from many of the night’s sketches is commented upon by a green beaker itself that claims to be science – the nominal ‘treasure’ in the revue’s title, Rational Treasure. In lieu of science, it would appear that this year’s team has turned to people – suburban neighbours, work colleagues, parents and children – and good old fashioned punnery to bedeck the revue (including perhaps the most sexual joke involving a rubber chicken that I think I’ve ever been witness to).
Sketches about the two blokiest blokes engaging in some wholesome bonding over their gardens and kids bleed into Sim dance parties and occult handymen. The theme of neighbourly relationships is returned to in a number of sketches, and the surreal lurking beneath the everyday suggests that the rationality of the revue’s title is just out of grasp – this is, after all, an irrational universe bound only by the laws of whatever will get a laugh.
Prepare to be engaged as you’re serenaded to by a barbershop multitude (Photo: Wilson Huang)
And it’s this servicing of the audience which is most notable. From Annabel Cameron’s tea lady taking drink orders from the audience to a barbershop multitude serenading individual audience-goers – and even what I think is the first use of a kiss-cam in a revue (definitely the first I’ve ever seen, at least) – the revue seeks to engage its audience.
That’s not to suggest that sketches stick solely to the safety of neighbourhoods and ordinary people. Film and music are picked from liberally, with the revue opening to an acapella rendition of the infamous throbbing THX sting and Catherine Zheng’s lecturer singing with increasing desperation about her inability to escape the clutches of university. I’m not sure if vocal director Marco Solano or the directorial team of Ryan, Murray and Cameron were aware that the song being parodied had an accompanying music video shot in the aftermath of a school reunion making the show’s parody eerily appropriate, but I am always 100% down for wholesome parodies of Billy Joel songs and ‘The Longest Time’ fits in seamlessly here.
I’d be remiss not to mention the band – led by band directors Olivia McRae and Hubert Demonteverde. Perhaps more so than in any other revue, Science Revue seems to have made it a tradition to integrate the band into the performance. From providing the band with lingering moments to perform their own musical numbers to the freedom for members to indulge in their own comedy – one sketch involved the band playing a third-grade class for their parents (in reality you, the ordinary audience goer) and quite intentionally performing ‘Seven Nation Army’ badly. And it’s hilarious.
The band is there for more than just ambience, even having some of their own comedy sketches throughout the show (Photo: Victoria Lee)
Perhaps it’s telling as well that, rather than a comedy sketch, the revue’s second act instead begins with the band engaged in a sort of one-upmanship battle of the saxes. I appreciate that this year’s Science Revue allowed me to make that sort of pun.
The show is not without it’s hitches, of course. The band is bold, loud and brassy – and either through technical fault or the vocal prowess of the singers, sometimes (although rarely) drowns out the singers themselves. This could always just be first-night teething issues, as could a dance performance (choreographed beautifully by dance directors Shannon Sweeney and Nathan Hawkins) where some cast members found it challenging to get their umbrellas up. Umbrellas can be tricky to open at the best of times, and indeed the final joke is that Zoë Yalouris’ umbrella is in fact jammed, however as the dancers move through the motions one is left wondering if every umbrella malfunction was intentional or just props being uncooperative.
If there’s anything to take away from this year’s Science Revue, it’s that it’s ambitious – that kiss cam? Asking umbrellas to behave in such a delicate operation as a dance sequence? Perhaps not every joke or sketch is going to find its way into next year’s ‘Greatest Hits of the 2017 Revues Revue’, but it’s firing on full creative cylinders and will leave you laughing. Well, 9 times out of 10. Yet even hitches and teething issues don’t derail this year’s performance – and Science Revue (as always) leaves so much to talk about. Should I go into detail about the work of video directors Shon Ho and Luke Tisher? How about singling out more of the cast? I mean I could always do that, but this review might start running away with itself.
Besides, a lot of the experience of a revue is, well, experiencing it. Go along and enjoy it for yourself. Science Revue after all hasn’t failed us yet, and at this rate never will.