By Flora Norton
Quirky, entertaining and unexpected, Chaddyslap is everything I hoped I’d see at the Melbourne cringe festival (whoops, *fringe*) and more. A non-sensical and dynamical piece complete with songs, raps and dance routines, Chaddyslap tells the unlikely tale of 8 shoppers who get stranded inside Chadstone for a day, using engaging and compelling characters as a mouthpiece through which to criticise modern consumerism and the absurdity of the range of products available on the shelves today.
Combining creative costumes, seamless set changes, audience interaction and real-life footage, Chaddyslap is continually exciting and despite a distinct absence of any conventional narrative, manages to retain the attention of the audience throughout. Moments of abstract comedy include a conversation with a talking ATM machine which despite making no sense, fits in seamlessly with the general vibe of the show. This is also an example of the effort put into costumes and the impressive set design as the actress wearing the painted cardboard box complete with buttons and a screen, then repositions it as part of the set for the following scene.
The script (Harley Hefford) is witty and absurd and is supported by a strong cast of dedicated young actors. Not only are the cast energetic and engaging in the ensemble numbers, they each develop unique and compelling characters throughout the play, with Gregory (Josiah Lulham) and the mother (Monique Marani) as notable standouts. Lulham’s sarcastic and monotonous performance as socially awkward Gregory from NAB is hilarious in its relatability and pokes fun at the incompetence and gawkiness of many retail assistants. This is reinforced later in a hilarious musical number in which one shopper is hounded by assistants throwing clothes in her face and trying to persuade her to buy as much as possible – a relatable experience for most.
Meanwhile Marani’s comical portrayal of a somewhat neglectful mother who embarks on a flirtatious love affair with a fellow stranded customer has the audience in stitches. This sub-plot contributes to the comic relief as we watch on, caught between the desire to laugh and look away, as the pair engage in some unspecified activity under the covers of one of the Chadstone beds. Slapstick in its execution and humour, this scene, and it’s delivery by the actors, is a highlight of the show.
The director (Harley Hefford) incorporates several stylistic forms of theatre including song, rap and dance all tied together with well-rehearsed, sharp and energised choreography. The lyrics are clever and though cheerful and upbeat, hold nothing back in their mockery of popular brands, products and commodities. Estee Lauder, UE Booms and Adidas shoes are all examples of those who fail to escape Hefford’s brutal cynicism.
Also effective was the incorporation of a projector at the back of the stage and the intermittent flashes of footage. Short videos of the shoppers interacting, in costume, in the real Chadstone, added to the humour but also helped the audience to sympathise with the plight of the characters. Being trapped in Chadstone for just an hour let alone a day, would be my worst nightmare, and Chaddyslap was certainly an entertaining and thought-provoking way to imagine it.
A great work of abstract comedy, Chaddyslap is a must see for all those wishing to laugh their way through the Melbourne fringe.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.