By Naomi Hamer
(Misery's) Feats of the Little Known is an intriguing if sometimes confused social commentary that foreshadows a futuristic post-nuclear world where the oddity is you or I. A world where drops of water are exchanged for a night’s rest at the Vile Hotel. While the first characters we bare witness to on stage share little physical resemblance to us, a world where water is the commodity by necessity not just choice is an all too close to home concept with the School Climate Strike this Friday and New South Wales currently under water restrictions.
Written and directed by Shayne De Groot and the first production by Fool Grown Collective, (Misery's) Feats of the Little Known was inspired by French director Jacques Lecoq’s studies in comedic theatre known as Bouffon or the buffoon. Grounded in physical theatre for its humour and best known for its use of mockery with prominent characters like the jester. With this in mind, I found (Misery's) Feats of the Little Known to be stylistically comedic with some great performances by the ensemble who put their bodies on the line speculating how a mutated body may move in the world but I’m still unsure if I was supposed to find the performance laugh out loud funny or satirical. As an audience we are asked to suspend our disbelief until the big reveal at the very end where suddenly everything we have been asked to take on face value isn’t what was sold to us. As social commentary goes, this sudden role reversal and turning of tables is the clearest and also most didactic part of the performance but it also ties everything together too neatly and too late in the piece. To reach its full potential, clues needed to have been sprinkled throughout the performance and from the opening scenes. It felt like a cop out that Bort and the Bob were revealed as the P. T Barnums’ of The Greatest Showman after being the odd ones out throughout the entire performance.
Set in the round in a post-apocalyptic world, the stage felt long and desolate in the Sydney Fringe Festival’s Emerging Artist Share House (Erskineville Town Hall) Living Room. A tall stack of boxes making up The Vile Hotel on one side of the stage and the other seemingly sparse mirroring the world it was creating. Two long rows of chairs on either side of the stage see the audience watching each other’s reactions throughout the performance. Costumes and makeup were transformational, leaving the actors unrecognisable and embodying the mutated characters the ensemble were portraying. From Madeline Macrae’s Misery, with a hunched back and large broad shoulders that held the weight of her hotel on her shoulders to Curtis Harrild’s Boof who is described as “vertically long and horizontally short” his movements and complexion reminiscent of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Starring Curtis Harrild, Elsa J Cherlin, Gemma Clinch, Jesse Northam, Madeline Macrae, Samantha Lambert, Shayne De Groot and with lighting and sound operation by Brittany Turner, this ensemble driven performance asks some pertinent questions about what the future may look like if we continue in our current climate and social trajectories. However ending the performance like a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not style show confuses the message. By inviting us to see the mutant oddities up close, it feels like we are suddenly missing the bigger picture, a second and less absurd storyline that (Misery's) Feats of the Little Known unfortunately did not have enough time to develop to its full potential.
(Misery's) Feats of the Little Known runs from 17-21 September 2019 at the Emerging Artists Sharehouse, Erskineville Town Hall, Erskineville.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.