Friday, 13 December 2002

Speedmouse, Ubmbilical Bros, Dec 13, 2002


What: Speedmouse by The Umbilical Brothers
Where: Athenaeum Theatre I
When: December 12 to 14 & 18 to 22, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

What is so wonderful about The Umbilical Brothers in Speedmouse, apart from their exceptional skill, is their apparent unpretentiousness. Dave Collins and Shane Dundas knock our socks off us with their effortless blend of physical gags, sound effects and stupidness.

Between, or sometimes during, their construction of bizarre imagined worlds, they charm us with their casual chit chat, making it all look like a relaxed party game. It isn't. Speedmouse is a cleverly devised and complex piece without a single narrative line.

It sports two delightful, skilled performers who lead us like lambs into their land of nutty noises and pictures. The stage is empty except for the occasional introduction of a small, black screen by the third cast member, the Roadie. On this cavernous, black stage of the Athenaeum the pair create an underwater world, the Manchester Olympics

They manufacture out of thin air and sound effects, their own Fantastic Voyage inside Dave's body as he holds a microphone to his head listening to the scientists chat about his innards.

Their version of French mime- they mockingly call it European visual theatre - is a wry parody of walking into the wind and pulling yet another a mime rope.

This is no ordinary or classical mime show. They create a seamless mind and body meld between them. Much of the time Shane is using a mike but almost invisibly creating all the sound for both his and Dave's actions.

 A dog barks, pounds up the road on its little paws, runs after a stick. All this is vapour but we believe it because Dave and Shane's illusions are so real and complete.

There are several theatrical devices that allow them to move through their visual and audio gags. One is the use of a remote control. They fast-forward, go slow motion, move frame by frame or rewind.

They can switch channels to an erotica program, to a runaway truck heading toward them or to a child floating away attached to a helium balloon.

Another winning element is the clown-suited, ominously silent Roadie who hates Dave. While the Roadie supports Shane, Tina, the unseen but heard stage manager with a big bloke's voice, disciplines Shane.

Their timing is impeccable. Their method is their own. The two become almost interchangeable as voice and actor.

Speedmouse is more than a short spin around a few visual gags. It is a rich and funny 90 minutes with two very talented guys and a complete bastard of a Roadie.

It is the kooky meeting of Die Hard and Marcel Marceau. This could be family entertainment - if you can tolerate the odd bit of swearing.


By Kate Herbert

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