Sunday, 27 September 1998

INFECTIOU$, Sept 27, 1998

The 90s really had some mad theatre. Here's another archived review. KH
by Maude Davey and Marcia Ferguson
Lower Melbourne Town Hall until Oct 11, 1998

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

INFECTIOU$ is a psycho-pop-sci-fi-medical-satire with songs. Please explain? A megalomaniacal capitalist, Mr. Sphinx, (Karen Hadfield) employs medical researchers Drs. Pathology (James Wardlaw) and Drip (Jane Bayly), to isolate a world-threatening virus.

A patient called Infection (David Pidd) is turning into a chair. Yes, a chair. Claudia, a Fitzroy resident with a social conscience, (Maude Davey) is enraged by the insensitive, capitalist trend and laments her own fading empathy for the troubled: the losers, loners, street-people.

A granny in pink dressing gown (Marcia Ferguson) is losing her grip on this world and no-one seems to care - except her grand-daughter, Claudia. This ugly, impersonal world values the virtual and the lucrative above the actual and the personal. A 2-dimensional, screen queen (Pidd) coolly comments on the virtual versus the real.

There is a social and political message. We are infected with selfishness. We are blind to poverty, anguish, age and illness. Our sense of community is virtually(!) gone. Without a dollar value to society we are dispensable.

The script for this wacky show was written by Marcia Ferguson with Maude Davey, Madam of the Fringe, She Who Guides Us through the lurid halls of alternative theatre.

The six actors, directed by Melanie Beddie, sing, dance and quip their choreographed way through 90 minutes of goofy hospital cabaret, reminiscent of the television grotesquery of Let the Blood Run Free.

The narrative is interspersed with diverse, original music by Pete Farnan (Boom Crash Opera). The songs are the most inspiring and satisfying component, making their political points with pithy lyrics and big, live sound. Titles such as, "What will happen if nobody gives any more?" "I object. I'm not an object," " I want to be human,” "If money is a disease, I've got it," and " Give me a dollar or I die," reveal the whole story.

 There are a few weaknesses that do not affect the fun of the evening. There are too many narrative threads to be resolved. In the end, whose story is it? Nanny's? Claudia's? Patient Infection's? The humour sometimes relies on bad puns and under-grad jokes. If it were not for the quality of the performers it might be mistaken for the Uni Med School revue.

But this is an hilarious, lively, impassioned night of satirical humour which touches the bleeding, ugly core of our shallow world. We do not want to " get over the empathy thing."

 By Kate Herbert 27 Sept 1998

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