Claustraphobic comedy

Delectable Shelter (The Hayloft Project & Critical Stages)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

August 6 – 10

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The Hayloft Project and Critical Stages’ “Delectable Shelter” is  an ‘out of the box’ comedy, which is ironic given that the action literally takes place in a box (a ‘bunker’ represented by a kind of open-sided shipping container, sparingly decorated with little more than hideous floral wallpaper). This unique stage design is a clever way of contextualising the claustrophobia so central to the story’s black comedy, as it tells the tale of five doomsday survivors planning a utopian society.

The first two acts of the story track the fortunes of a dysfunctional, privileged family, after a global catastrophe (immediately and then a few years hence) as they focus on repopulating and reshaping the future world. From there, the play romps around in gleeful “Red Dwarf” style and demonstration of just how ridiculous humans can be. Indeed, these later scenes are a real delight as the descendants of the original survivors pay (inadvertent) homage to their ancestors, with a layering of references to earlier conversations. It is here where the result of three centuries of Chinese whispers is revealed in a lexiconically kleptomaniac feast of fun of The Simpson’s ‘purple monkey dishwasher’ type.

“Delectable Shelter”, is an unorthodox, yet engaging story, in part due to way in which silence and song play equal leading roles. Initial Act One scenes are characterised by restraint and quiet, while Act Two sees a mute character dominate with comic hilarity. As punctuation to this, each act is divided by a capella ‘fusion song’ versions of ‘80s power ballads, performed by a salmon-pink robed choir. The musical interludes are not as random as first perceived and it is eventually revealed that the group is trying to disarm a potential enemy upon their return to the surface of earth, 350 years after Act One. Such is the anarchic approach and thus the appeal of this apocalyptic account.

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