La Mama is an intimate one-room shoebox tucked away in Carlton, and it’s a terrible/wonderful theatre space. Terrible if you’re stuck with a boring show, as there’s nowhere to hide, snooze or make a hasty escape. Wonderful if you’re sharing the space with a witty, invigorating production, as the sense of intimacy really feels like you’re witness to an exciting secret.
UK theatre duo Ridiculusmus have brought their works-in-progress Goodbye Princes, Total Football and A Conversation About Comedy to La Mama as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. David Woods and Jon Haynes are my comedic heroes ever since I saw their hysterical, my face-is-going-to-fall-off-I’m-laughing-so-hard version of The Importance of Being Earnest, where the two of them played every character. In London I also saw their 15th anniversary retrospective season at the Barbican containing more works of their rapid-fire, ping-pong conversations. These guys are so funny that even when they were saying something innocuous to me like ‘Thanks for coming’ I’d feel a fit of giggles coming on.
The most thrilling aspect of their short season at La Mama was that they invited members of the public to read Goodbye Princes as part of an Elizabethan style play reading, meaning you were given only your part and then had to read/act it along with a bunch of strangers you’d never met . You have no idea how excited I was to be selected as ‘Blogger 1’ because Ridiculusmus had read my blog!
Our evening started off with David and Jon reading an excerpt from their two-hander Total Football, a play inspired a young kid (and presumably football fanatic) Charlie Wootton (who was in the audience). The script was typical Ridiculusmus – a snappy cross-fire of banter weaving in and out of a clutch of vaguely connected tangents, from football fans to Churchill to the Olympic Committee to British identity.
Then the cast of about 43 people (ranging from an amateur actor to an arts administrator to a story-teller to me) started to read Goodbye Princess. I had the benefit of a full script and this was my second reading, so I had some idea of where it was going. I’m sure most members of the audience had no idea what was going on, as characters played other characters played other characters and the dialogue jumbled and bounced back and forth in what seemed to be a play commissioned by Mohammed Al Fayed to reveal the truth about the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed. Clearly everyone enjoyed just going along for the ride and the intimate setting made it feel like we were all part of one big party, with the cast and the audience all hooting with laughter at the dialogue, the sometimes haphazard delivery and the unexpected interjections from people who looked like audience members but who were not.
Ridiculusmus are doing one more play reading tonight – the complete version of Total Football and A Conversation About Comedy. If you can make it, go see it – I guarantee a good time!