Adelaide Festival Review: Grand Theft Theatre

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews Grand Theft Theatre presented by Melbourne’s indie theatre company Pony Cam for Adelaide Festival.

Wayville’s Latvian Hall (Tālava) was the handsome setting for this Festival show which attempted to explore and imitate (to a point) all manner of ‘great’ works of theatre, and ponder our sentimental attachments to them. Often, it must be said, in the most frustrating fashion possible.

Immediately annoying some audience members by requiring us to write our favourite stage works on a sticker and then grab a chair, this began when David Williams (collaborating with five members of Pony Cam) started explaining what we were about to see. However, he was drowned out by loud music, and while this seemed like a mistake, at first, it was a trick they kept returning to, as if they were trying to be deconstructive and unpredictable, rather than simply irksome.

Eclectic theatrical works were referenced straight away, from Michael Flatley’s hoofing to Barrie Kosky’s version of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and then the individual members of the troupe started talking all over each other as they discussed performances that have affected them over the years. There were straight-ish recreations (with some apparently unsimulated vomiting) and comedically explicit reminisces, but too much of it fell flat, while a few of the punters were unhappy at being asked to continually move.

Later stunts and flashbacks worked well enough, and yet would-be highlights didn’t click, such as emulating Benedict Cumberbatch’s “flopping” from National Theatre Live’s take on Frankenstein. There was also a fast wrap-up of performances the players had seen at this year’s Fringe and Festival, which would have been baffling if you hadn’t attended anything but this very show.

When we finally took to the stage, with the troupe effectively becoming the audience (ho-hum), there was a quieter, more serious discussion of quieter, more serious plays, like Margaret Edson’s devastating Wit. And, suddenly, it briefly seemed like the show we should have seen, and what Grand Theft Theatre really should have been doing all along.

It’s a crime that they didn’t go with more of this moving material, and that they instead tried so desperately to be funny.

Image credit: Roy VanDerVegt

Grand Theft Theatre

Until Monday 11th of March

Latvian Hall, Wayville

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