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Review: PowerPoint Night at MUST CabFest 2021

Review By Thomas Gregory

In 2003, the Chicago Tribune reported on a piece of software that had been around for over a decade:

PowerPoint ... is one of the most pervasive and ubiquitous technological tools ever concocted. In less than a decade, it has revolutionized the worlds of business, education, science, and communications, swiftly becoming the standard for just about anybody who wants to explain just about anything to just about anybody else. From corporate middle managers reporting on production goals to 4th-graders fashioning a show-and-tell on the French and Indian War to church pastors explicating the seven deadly sins ... PowerPoint seems poised for world domination.

Today, even the word brings groans to students and ex-students who have sat through many a class in which the lecturer read off slides that contained too many words. Fortunately, this was not an experience had at Monash University’s Student Theatre’s (MUST) “PowerPoint Night”. Six unique presentations, interspersed with live introductions, gave us a night that was sometimes funny, sometimes informative, and sometimes outright confusing.

Cousin Tara’s Anatomy of a Sock Bag offered a unique glimpse into a family quirk that was both relatable and hilariously insane. It used the medium well, with images adding to the humor of the monologue, and was the perfect length to keep engagement with the audience. While the production quality of this particular presentation could have been improved, especially by the removal of background laughter, it served as a fun beginning to the night.

Callum Cheah’s Why The Lost Boys is the greatest vampire film of all time is perhaps the most complex of the presentations. While more YouTube video than PowerPoint presentation, this three-part series arguing for the classic eighties film was sometimes comedic, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes more heartfelt than anyone could expect. While “Part One” failed to capture our attention with its half-hearted criticism of other films, and “Part Two” sometimes backtracked on its thesis by its constant pointing out of negatives, Callum truly produces something amazing in his personal reasons for loving the film in the final section.

Callum himself is a charismatic performer and, with heavy editing, this could very well be the YouTube video that deserves to go viral.

When watching things that annoy me: a comprehensive list of gripes by Amelia Sheppard, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my recent review of “Things That Get My Goat”. Perhaps it is time for theatre practitioners and stand-up comedians to let go of this tired format. However, I can concede that perhaps some of the negative opinions I have of this piece come not from any legitimate criticism, but the fact that my old personage simply cannot relate to Gen Z as much as I hoped.

Speaking of not relating, I fear any review of How To Turn Down Timothee Chalamet: Vol. 1 by Emma Batty and Emillie King would be an exercise in failure. While a favorite of the audience, almost the entirety of the presentation went over my head. I suspect there was a large amount of satire directed at the TikTok culture of today, and the premise of rejecting the gorgeous young actor certainly appealed to me, but I, unfortunately, did not get to experience what I suspect was the full extent of the comedy presented.

The piece of the night that most represented the possibilities that come with using PowerPoint as a tool for theatre came from Catholicism 4 Millennials by Quinten Henderson. Taking the character of a priest charged with making the catholic church appealing to the youth of today, Quinten showed a mature awareness of both the topic and the common features of presentations in order to send them up. Not afraid to address the tougher topics that inevitably arise when talking about the church, Quinten’s “Ezekiel Holyman” scarily accurate portrayal of youth ministers and chaplains today brought some of the few laugh-out-loud moments of the night.

Not all presenters, however, opted for comedy. The most polished piece of the night was Daniel Lammin’s The Lost Child in the Disney Animated Classics. A lecture in the truest sense of the word, it is clear to see why Daniel’s podcast “Ink and Paint” is one of the most popular in the world for discussing Disney animation. Engaging and thought-provoking, we walk away from it feeling better educated. While never attempting humor, the presentation was engaging and well-structured. The only criticism would be a slight one, that being the fact Lammin respected copyright law and avoided the use of film clips or images from the films he was discussing.

Between the presentations were interludes by MCs that, frankly, dragged the night out rather than adding to it. Their own short presentations could have been better served as equal billings to the larger pieces. However, breaking up the longer presentations into parts ensured there were no times of boredom, and they were split carefully at the perfect points to have us looking forward to the next. While Facebook Live was perhaps not the best choice for streaming, it allowed for audience engagement and feedback that added to the community atmosphere.

Overall, MUST’s “PowerPoint Night” was full of hits and misses, but truly showcased the potential to be found in the theatre practitioners coming out of Monash University. MUST continues its shows for CabFest 2021 until Friday 29th October, while its upcoming show “HOME and other mysteries” is performing in mid-November.

Image Supplied


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