Lights hang from the roof in messed bundles. A crescent moon, made from gnarly looking metal, droops in between. Q Theatre’s looking a bit different tonight; it’s the opening of Silo Theatre’s Mr. Burns, A post-electric play. It’s a genre-busting production that’s already delighted audiences in London, New York and Sydney.
Set in the aftermath of an unknown disaster, Anne Washburn’s funny/frightening play follows a group of survivors united through their shared memory of a famous Simpsons episode – Cape Feare. Jumping between three time periods, the play shows how one story can be passed down, altered, twisted – and yet still remain the same.
Directed by Oliver Driver, Mr Burns is a fascinating and deeply entertaining piece of theatre. Funny, horrific and downright insane; it looks at how popular culture might survive an apocalyptic future, looking through the lens of the Simpsons as a guide. It’s a thought-provoking idea – would your favourite song, TV show or movie manage to make it to the end of our civilisation?
The small, ensemble cast are all exceptional, with Joel Tobeck giving the performance of a lifetime; an absolute showstopper. Throughout the three acts, the cast are all required to do a bit of everything: monologues, fighting, singing, dancing – and more. One minute we’re in high drama – the next in a pop-video.
The staging and set design are impressive too; Q Theatre’s Rangatira room is as I’ve never seen it before and the audience is very quickly brought into the play’s world, even before the show begins.
Performed in the round, Driver has made excellent use of the space, making pretty much any seat a good seat. That being said, some lines were slightly inaudible at times. A few technical problems plagued the second half’s dialogue, although hopefully, this is just an opening night flaw.
I found that Some scenes did drag a bit, meaning the play occasionally loses its momentum, but it’s hard not to lose yourself in the humour, story and overall insanity of it all.
Mr Burns, like the Simpson character’s most famous line, is indeed eeexceeellent. Silo Theatre has created a mad world that’s totally unlike anything you ever will have seen on the stage. Another theatrical must-see for this innovative and boundary-pushing company.
Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund
MR. BURNS: A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY plays Rangatira, Q Theatre until 29 September (Tues to Wed at 7pm, Thurs to Sat at 8pm, Sun at 5pm).