REVIEW: At Least There Was A Riding Crop
Words by Sandra Buol
“Welcome to the Mad Hatar’s Tea Party” – being a big fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and oddly fascinated by Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter, the first few minutes of the Education and Social Work Revue certainly looked promising to me. On screen, the audience followed the White Rabbit on a journey through Wonderland (a.k.a. the campus), meeting all those familiar characters on the way: the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Knave of Hearts and of course Alice and the Mad Hatter.
Unfortunately, there was not much Wonderland left after that intro. It’s a bit of a shame, because Lewis Carroll’s work – in its absurdity and through the exploration of language – offers such a big potential to play with. But then maybe the novel’s themes and puns are no longer a part of the collective memory as the used to be and would have made the revue less accessible for a general audience. Anyway, I digress.
As could be expected, most skits were themed around school, education and teachers. There were a few gems. Personally, I loved the one that took us right to Litchfield Prison (a.k.a. detention), where inmates were detained for addiction problems (to coke, the one you drink, not the one you snort), anger management issues and indecent behaviour (skirt above knee). I also enjoyed the teacher dominatrix sketch – not because it was particularly revolutionary, but because a little bit of kink is always fun to observe. Another idea that worked well were videos of teachers reading out mean tweets – there were three parts of it, and two of them were brilliant.
Unfortunately, many of the remaining skits fell quite flat. The main problem was that they often lasted far too long with the main pun somewhere in the middle. Instead of breaking them up in different parts – it’s always a good idea to bring back the same characters several times (if they’re good) – they were dragged out until they almost became painful to watch. I also missed more songs and music. There doesn’t have to be a live orchestra on stage, but a little more variety would have served the show well.
The cast faced some challenges. There were less than ten of them. Director Matthew Garner addressed this in his message to the audience, saying it has been a “bumpy ride” for cast and crew, as people continuously dropped out from participating in the show. Expecting to work with a much bigger number of people and then being reduced to just a few of them will prove hard for any project. Considering this situation, Garner is convinced they made the best of it.
The Tea Party opened on Thursday night at the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre. On Friday, the ranks were half-empty. Saturdays are traditionally harder to sell with all the weekend distractions on. Considering this, next year’s team might have to consider joining forces with another crew – or come up with something completely different.