Arts / Popular return of the very silly Mechanicals

Coming soon… The SA Theatre Company’s production of “The Popular Mechanicals”. Photo by Shane Reid

THE SA Theatre Company is coming to The Playhouse soon with a very silly play, “The Popular Mechanicals”, directed by Sara Giles.

The Mechanicals are the Athenian tradesmen from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” who put on the play “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the king’s wedding.

There’s Peter Quince the carpenter, Snug the joiner, Nick Bottom the weaver, Francis Flute the bellows-mender, Tom Snout the tinker and Robin Starveling the tailor.

Coming soon… The SA Theatre Company’s production of “The Popular Mechanicals”. Photo by Shane Reid

In 1987, at Belvoir Theatre, actor-director Geoffrey Rush got together with writers Tony Taylor and Keith Robinson, with a bit of help from William Shakespeare, to concoct one of the most hair-brained plays ever to grace the Australian stage.

In it, we see those world-famous amateurs, the Athenian Mechanicals, as they prepare themselves for the “tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love”.

In the original Shakespeare we see them behind-the-scenes too, rehearsing their lines deep in the forest, but Rush and his players took it to even greater extremes, putting together a cocktail of vaudeville, slapstick, stand-up comedy, bad puppetry and fart jokes.

So if it was all that funny, why haven’t we seen it here before?

The answer is, we have, staged by Carole Woodrow’s Canberra Theatre Company in the old Playhouse during March 1990.

And what a line-up of talent it was – the late character actor Ron Hill played Bottom; present-day Melbourne Theatre director Tom Healey played Flute; Angus Strathie, who went on to do the costumes for Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom”, designed the show and comedian-turned union organiser Michael White performed his theatrical swansong as Snug.

Our recollection is that it was unremittingly funny and with actors such as Julie Forsyth, Nathan O’Keefe Holly Austin, Lori Bell, Charles Mayer and Rory Walker in the cast, it’s bound to be the same all over again.

“The Popular Mechanicals”, The Playhouse, November 1-4. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.

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