A Tribute of Sorts (A Monsters Appear Production presented by Queensland Theatre Company and Metro Arts)
The Greenhouse, Bille Brown Studio
May 7 – 17
It’s difficult not to be apprehensive walking into “A Tribute of Sorts” given the “warning, comic depictions of death” notice at the entrance to the Bille Brown Studio. Inspired by the curious book “The Gashlycrumb Tinies”, by Edward Gorey, the show is black comedy at its strangest, as its cousin characters, spiffy teenagers Ivan (Dash Kruck) and Juniper (Emily Burton) present a variety show in which, as homage, they re-enact the 26 untimely deaths of a series of alphabetically named children.
But this is a show about moments more than stories – awkward and uncomfortable moments between the strange but loveable pair of protagonists. Kruck and Burton are quirky and charming in their determination (to the point of desperation) to have their tribute show (of sorts) to the lost children, which serious, amateur dramatist Ivan has devised, succeed. Both give faultless, naturally nuanced and hilarious performances of subtle looks and the power of their uneasy pauses only helps to engender an endearing empathy, particularly Burton in her depiction of the melodramatic teenager torment of being in love… . with her cousin.
Despite its macabre Tim-Brutonseque themes, Benjamin Schostakowski’s dazzlingly inventive play, which premiered in La Boite’s 2012 Indie program, is also show of much sparkle, featuring glitter, gold and a Vaudellian-esque magic show to the sounds of Pilot’s cheesy 1974 song “Magic”. The memorable music is also often bright and bouncy, in contrast to the sombre Whistler’s-Mother-like lounge room backdrop. However, this clash of moods does not detract from the show; rather it serves to highlight how essentially weird, wonderful and witty it is. The writing cleverly weaves the stories together and although pacing is slow at first, it ultimately swells to be almost cinematic. This is also a highly visible show, full of memorable imagery. Indeed, there are some good design choices to showcase its diverse array of performative influences (from multimedia to puppetry).
“A Tribute of Sorts” is a delightful romp, delicious in its dark humour and compelling in its joyous, heartwarming story of storytelling. It is mayhem of the most oddball kind and yet,‘o, ho, ho, It’s magic, you know, Never believe it’s not so’.