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February 17, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Maria Madness & The Pragmatic

The Many Other Lives of Maria Madness

Devised by Soupietwist Theatre Collective
Written and Produced by Uther Dean
Directed by Laura Balmforth
with Melissa Demasi, Sam Woodward, Patrick Keenan, Becky Wilson, Jeremy Keene, Chelsea Thorn and Dan Brown

The Pragmatic

Written by Harry Meech, Matthew Arrowsmith and Chris Butler
Directed by Harry Meech
With Chris Butler, Isobel McKinnon, Matthew Arrowsmith and Uther Dean

Both at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian St
14/15/21/22 Feb 2009

A double bill of Fringe theatre from Victoria theatre students.

It is a widely acknowledged ‘fact’ that at the moment of death your entire life flashes before your eyes providing a hasty recap of memorable moments, the opportunity to reflect upon your achievements, any regrets you have kicking around, and generally sum up your experience on this delightful planet earth in one conclusive paragraph. This is the idea that the Soupietwist Theatre collective explore with gleeful enthusiasm in The Many Other Lives of Maria Madness. Though – it must be said – without much in the way of reflection or conclusion.

We bear witness to five scenes from Maria’s ‘unremarkable’ life, bookmarked by interpretive dance sequences portraying her death and birth choreographed and performed by Chelsea Thorne and Jeremy Keene. They are joined onstage by an ensemble cast of Becky Wilson, Melissa Demasi, Samantha Woodward, Patrick Keenan, Uther Dean and Laura Balmforth who take turns playing Maria through the ages and various other loopy characters who pop up along the way. We are guided through this experience by Dan Brown who is commanding as the narrator and brings a strong presence to a difficult role.

The cast give committed and energetic performances with a couple of gloriously funny moments (the robot was particularly dear to my heart) but as a whole this production felt unfinished. There was no through-line linking the five scenes, the five Maria’s were equally disparate in character and physicality and the script lacked cohesion. While the cast are clearly passionate young theatre makers having a grand old time, I think this show would have benefitted from a little more careful thought, editing and tightening, and perhaps an outside eye.

The second offering of the evening –The Pragmatic, brought to us by Grubstreet Theatre – oozed thought and careful planning. Harry Meech and his team (director Meech shares writing credits with chief actors Christopher Butler and Matthew Arrowsmith) have taken an absurd premise to its logical conclusion and crafted a funny and clever play.

The play is ‘a story about the mundane, the petty and the megalomaniacal, in two acts.’ It follows the story of Steve (Butler) a door-to-door briefcase salesman, and his wisecracking sidekicks; bartender friend Paul (a delightfully sardonic Arrowsmith) and love interest Sarah (Isobel MacKinnon); in their surprising and unlikely rise to power and fame. The first act covers the mundane, the second the megalomaniacal, and the petty provides a tart and distinctive humour throughout.

I must admit I was a little concerned when I saw the program claimed a ninety minute show without intermission but these fears were completely unfounded. The writing was excellent, the performances took a while to warm up but by the second act they were flying, and the design elements neatly complemented the action of the play. Though the show as a whole would have benefitted from pacing and some moments could definitely be tightened I would highly recommend catching this play next weekend. It is consistently funny enough to make you laugh out loud and clever enough to make you feel like a better person from having seen it. Can’t say fairer than that.

All in all this was an enjoyable double bill of young theatre. It is great to see theatre students getting out there and putting work into the world and getting a good solid mouthful of making a show outside of the supportive atmosphere of the university. It is harder, and more fun, than it looks.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Harry Meech says:

    Hey there! Thanks for the review Hannah! I just wanted to ask you to correct a tiny typo if you could – our venues address is 36 Vivian street, not 36 Willis street. Haha, I would hate for any potential patrons to get lost.

    Thanks again for the review,


  2. Rory Harnden says:

    This has been amended, thanks Harry.

  3. Uther Dean says:

    My bad. Sorry.
    You’d think I’d know where it was.

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