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BWW Review: THE TRIUMPH OF MAN: A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS at Rumpus, 100 Sixth Street, Bowden

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A political satire.

BWW Review: THE TRIUMPH OF MAN: A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS at Rumpus, 100 Sixth Street, Bowden Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Tuesday 14th September 2021.

Play is one of those words. It's a theatrical representation, and it's playtime, that joyful recreation period enjoyed mostly by children and, this evening at Rumpus, is playful and play full. Papermouth Theatre is a new company to me, and James Watson's The Triumph of Man, a new playwright, and a new play. It's rooted in the theatre of the absurd. Check the DNA and there's Samuel Beckett and Tom Stoppard. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are directly named. But wait. There's more.

The story is simple. Two actors, known only as One and Two, are kidnapped mid-performance and taken across the border to a country ruled with an iron fist by General Ferdinand. The idea of the play traces back to a similar kidnapping involving North Korea, and Ferdinand is very much your composite dictator. There's certainly some Kim Jung-Il for he is 'not tall' and has a flunky whose one job is to settle the requisite cushion under his feet, and there's Trump. "I do not know this man" is a sentence of removal and death. He has written a play, The Triumph of Man, the man, in this case, being himself. Actors One and Two join with the country's leading actor to present this masterpiece and then to tour it around the country. Add Nero to the toxic cocktail of the general's self-image. While you're at it, add a South American dictator and a central Asian president for life.

His oppression of his people manifests in daily hangings in the marketplace. A small group of students, primarily Axelle, plan his assassination, and accidentally foil another plot from within his own entourage.

Director/designer, Mary Angley, has made excellent use of the very versatile space. The audience sits traverse and a roll of carpet links the General's throne, a creaky la-Z-boy, to the dungeon wall where various people end up hanging. The action continues in the corridors as loud arguments move into the distance.

There's a fresh energy to the cast, and a strong sense of how much fun the rehearsal period must have been, as they negotiated the many changes of character and costume. Indeed, the doubling is so secure that, at the end of the play, you have to count six people and still think you're missing one. Did they really also play Uncle Karl? In that amazing wig and beard? Must have done.

Arran Beattie and Chris Best are One and Two, and pop up as secret service agents. Grace Boyle is both the country's greatest actor, Erasmus, and the dictator's mousey wife with a secret, Ivana. Yoz Mensch is Ferdinand, a self-loving and voluptuous character, part teddy bear, and all psychopath. Ellen Graham is Axelle, the failed revolutionary, and Poppy Mee shifts from beanie-wearing student to senior administrator, Artemon, with remarkable poise, aided by a floor-length red coat, not just an accessory, more an accomplice.

Caitlin Ellen Moore is credited as casting director, and when did you ever see that in a theatre program around town. There's assured technical support through Max Wood's lighting, managed by Grace Calabretto. The music by the dictator's court composer, Reggie Parker, embodies nationalist fervour and romantic orchestration.

This impressive proof that theatre is alive and thriving in Adelaide, especially now, was a joy. Lots of laughs and, yes, a shocking, but not unexpected ending.


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