Plenty of laughs in new over-the-top hit

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A period drama in “The Art of Coarse Acting”. Photo: Helen Drum

Theatre / “The Art of Coarse Acting”, Canberra REP. At  Theatre 3, Acton, until August 10. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA. 

THERE’S been over-the-top hit shows such as “Noises Off” and “The Play that Goes Wrong”, but now Canberra REP is going a step further down the path of amateur mayhem with “The Art of Coarse Acting”, in which everything that can conceivably go wrong does.

Briefly, the conceit is that the six mini-plays being presented by the fictitious “Poon River Players” are holding their Australian premiere in Canberra before a tour that will take in Mudgee, Ulladulla, and possibly the world.

Veteran Canberra performer Steph Roberts plays the president and director of “The Players”, while around her, the “real-life” director Chris Baldock has gathered 15 actors to play 49 roles.

Damon Baudin as the doomed airman in Stalag 69.

The plays, all by Michael Green, were first performed at the Edinburgh Festival and six have been selected for REP by Baldock from the Coarse Acting Shows series of books, “Four Plays for Coarse Actors”, “Coarse Acting Strikes Back” and “The Third Great Coarse Acting Show”.

When “CityNews” went to a media call out yesterday, we spotted hapless set designer Andrew Kay, trying to lock together canvas flats to evoke the POW camp Stalag 69. He assured us that such camps had central heating best “because it says so in the script” — he’d actually read it.

Kay said it has been a “very interesting” process designing the show, which required bits of the set to break but to look natural—all on Poon river’s modest budget.

The plays chosen cover a variety of favourite theatrical stereotypes, the period Jane Austen-type play, the war play, the murder-mystery and so on.

Essential features are backstage back-stabbing, deeply-felt emotions, missed lines, collapsing set parts, missed lighting cues and false props.

In short, it promises to be a laugh a minute.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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