Babes in the Woods: Australian Purity Defil’d is a new musical comedy work in the knock-about vein of the traditional Christmas panto, but, in an Aussie style. A very Aussie style. Drought, ghosts/convicts, mine shafts, bushfires, secret rivers and occasional awful foul language. There are some illuminated signs to cue us, the audience, to APPLAUD; BOO and HISS; to call LOOK BEHIND YOU; or to call, and this was my favourite, GET ON WITH IT. We were all given brown paper bags of cabbage (not garbage) to throw at the performers when we wanted to. AND, there is lots and lots of tinsel and whip-smart costuming, the Set and Costume, by Martelle Hunt, aided and abetted by suitable ‘blingy’ Lighting from Sian James-Holland.
We have cross dressed characters of both sexes and lots and lots of dumb gags (throw your cabbage) and lots and lots of quasi-vaudeville routines (Get on with it), lots and lots of songs (with not enough singers), and lots and lots of ripe political ribaldry as well (some of it quite smart, too). The five actors, Annie Byron (the delicious baddie, Aunt Avericia)), Sean Hawkins ( the sexually objectified and thick-head hero, Jack with some sad ‘gay’ jokes), Gabriel Fancourt (a very winning [clever] ‘drag’ heroine, Phyllis), Alex Malone (the female foul mouthed Babe, Ruby), IIdiko Susany (the moustachioed, mullet-quiffed male Babe, Robbie) and Eliza Reilly (with a double act: Flapgerkin – a talking emu and a spot-on Angel of White Privilege).
All of this is backed up with a live soundtrack from Composer Phillipe Klaus. It is Directed with a sure hand by Phil Rouse who has also Written and Produced the show. The only issue is really the sound balance. What with the electric piano which is miked-to-buggery non-stop and the performers not miked at all, not everything written is caught by the audience. It’s wit is often drowned in noise.
Still, this is just an end-of-year piece of raucous buffoonery best swallowed with swigs of your favourite beverage and the bon-homie of the end of year celebrations, enhanced by the need to obliterate, at least for 70 minutes, the annus horribilis that 2016 has been, and dim, even if only momentarily, the fearful prospect of the aftermath of a propitious event on the 20th January, 2017, somewhere in the US of A. Sound the trumpets and let’s hope the walls of civilisation don’t fall down, Joshua. Was that a cue to BOO and HISS? Which way to the Brexit?
Company: Don’t Look Away/Redline Productions
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre, Cathedral St, Woolloomooloo
Dates: 13 December 2016 – 21 January 2017
For more of Kevin Jackson’s theatre reviews, check out his blog at Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Diary
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television