This is a very clever and witty play, and Hannah Banks, Alex Greig and Simon Leary are simply brilliant in it. Book now to avoid disappointment.
According to My Accomplice, A Play About Love (March 2012), A Play About Space (July 2013) and A Play About Fear (February 2014) constitute a trilogy and A Show about Superheroes is a spin-off. But I see the plays about Love and Fear as a pair, being about primary human emotions, while those about Space (as a sci-fi sub-genre) and Superheroes are coupled as pop-culture genres.
What separates A Show about Superheroes from the others is the utter simplicity of its staging: just three actors in a bare space; no costumes as such, no props, no clever tricks with on-stage lights. And yet – despite the programme's claim the three actors play 72 characters in 51 scenes involving 24 deaths (I didn't count them but do believe those stats) – it plays out with relative clarity.
Yes it is rich in the esoteric tropes and motifs of – and homages to – the titular genre, which aficionados find hugely entertaining. My ancient familiarity with Marvel comics, and liking of Superman and some Batman films – not to mention a recent reading of Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville – is certainly enough for me to recognise the plot structure and imagine the ingeniously performed action in comic book or filmic form.
The framing devices are a ‘History of Heroes' documentary series hosted by Chris Crumpet and news flashes that come to us from NewsBots Alpha and Beta. We are taken back to a “time before history” when the first superheroes were anointed by the blinding light and vowed to only use their superpowers for good.
The ‘MacGuffin' is Chekhov's Diamond (a variation on Chekhov's Gun?). The heroes' nemesis, determined to use it to achieve immortality and world domination, is Lord Killingsworth, who of course must be vanquished … But being a popular series, he must also survive to allow for a sequel or three … And so it goes …
A Kiwi school playground turns out to harbour the latest iteration of heroes: The Super Six who become the next Team Extreme. I especially enjoy these characterisations and if My Accomplice didn't have to be so intent on packing the show into an hour, I think more could be made of their ‘ordinary life' cover stories.
The power one has to inhabit the bodies of others generates the most entertaining humour amongst a great deal of extremely entertaining humour. A memorable mime sequence involves the rigmarole Lord K must go through to unlock the diamond. Many apparently incidental elements are reincorporated and developed to help achieve cohesion and a sense of progress …
But what impresses me most is the skill with which this talented trio plays the text as if it were a full orchestral score, honouring its light and shade and variations in tempo; capturing sweet, if fleeting, moments of succulent subtlety as well as going for broke on the big stuff. They are so wonderfully fluid and fluent with the material, it's as if they'd been playing it for years.
Uther Dean - Stuff.co.nz'A highly original and innovative piece of theatre that is extremely entertaining and a very creditable participant in this year's festival...'open/close
As a theatre group, My Accomplice has now well and truly established itself as a progressive and enterprising force on the Wellington theatre scene.
Through its trilogy - A Play About Love, A Play About Space and A Play About Fear - and other productions it has created a unique style of performance that is very physical and, although scripted, often appears improvised.
The brains behind these productions, Uther Dean and Paul Waggott, have now come up with something even more bizarre, written by Dean and aided in part by the cast of Hannah Banks, Alex Greig and Simon Leary, for this year's New Zealand International Comedy Festival.
Exceedingly fast-paced, exhaustively physical (which is often very funny) and full of humorous dialogue - if you can catch it - A Show About Superheroes gives a satirical nod to all those television shows and films of the superhero genre, from The Avengers to Batman.
According to the programme notes, in one hour the three actors create 72 characters through 51 scenes which include 24 deaths, all with no props or costumes.
From the opening scene of cavemen turning into superheroes, to robotic TV presenters enacting the Omega Protocol to free hostages at a diamond exhibit at a national museum, and schoolboy superheroes, this show has it all.
Without missing a beat the cast relentlessly move with incredible fluidity and dexterity from one physical action to another.
And when one or more of the actors was not narrating or providing physical action to a piece, they were on the sides creating an astonishing array of sound effects to underscore the action.
The ability of the three actors to maintain concentration and total commitment to not only each other but the integration of physical action with the spoken word was truly amazing. And even though the essence of what was actually going on and how each bit fitted into the overall scheme of things was not always clear, the sheer power of the performances was more than enough compensation for this.
A highly original and innovative piece of theatre that is extremely entertaining and a very creditable participant in this year's festival.
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