It’s a perennial favourite amongst directors to turn to the cast at some stage during rehearsal warm-ups and say, ‘Let’s improv the backstory’. One can imagine a similar genesis for Popular Mechanicals – the backstory of the play within the play, Midsummer Night’s Dream. For those who saw STC’s recent production of Dream and were left staring in stunned disbelief at the final strains of Pyramus and Thisbe, by The Rude Mechanicals, this production is almost the sequel.
Written by Tony Taylor and Keith Robinson and first directed by Geoffrey Rush for Belvoir in 1987, this is what happens when Bottom, the self-styled matinee idol, succumbs to some fairy magic and disappears into the forest. Leading the comedic way are two of the greatest clowns in Australian theatre, Julie Forsyth (The Book of Everything, Romeo and Juliet) and Amber McMahon (Girl Asleep, Twelfth Night). Forsyth, one of our great comic actors, though not well known outside the sphere of regular theatregoers, is Robin Starveling. McMahon plays the rubber-faced, savant-like, Snug the Joiner. It’s a raunchy, hysterical, physical romp, with plenty of sight gags, fart jokes and goon sculling. Sarah Giles, former STC resident director, steers the mayhem with her usual absurdist flair.
This show probably won’t change your life – unless of course you are in dire need of an evening of pure joy and laughter – in which case it should be a sell-out.
Disclaimer : No rubber chickens were hurt at any point in this production.
Until May 13, Various performance times. Sydney Theatre Company, The Wharf 2, Pier 4, Hickson Road Walsh Bay. $49-$55. www.sydneytheatre.com.au or PH: 02 9250 1777
By Greg Webster.