Thursday, 22 September 2005

Singing Telegram by Michael Frencham , Sept 22, 2005

Singing Telegram by Michael Frencham 
Tusind Tak Productions
Melbourne Fringe Festival
  Store Room, Nth Fitzroy, Sept 22 to Oct 8, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Michael Frencham is a 30 year-old actor who spent several years working as a singing telegram. This is his story.

Mike talks directly to the audience about his evolution as a singing telegram. He was a student needing work, he saw the ad, he attended an audition in a dreary, industrial location.

The telegram agent who becomes a recurrent character in the show, is brassy, pushy Lexy. "Rhymes with sexy," she quips. Do you get the picture?

A Lexy, Frencham sucks hard on a mime ciggy and grimaces at us through the smoke. She is really declasse' but manages to get her clutches into Mike who needs the cash.

His first Gorilla-gram is a disaster. He faces an 18th birthday party and when he finds the birthday boy he is in his birthday suit doing the unspeakable alone in his room. Mike wants to quit but Lexy is persuasive.

He then becomes Elvis for Aunty Jan's 50th birthday and has a liaison with Elvis-obsessed Aunty Cheryl after the gig. The loveless Mike might be on to the good thing, he thinks.

As his Elvis impersonation improves, the work keeps coming.

Clearly, a show on its preview can be a bit bumpy but there are some glaring problems with Singing Telegram that will not necessarily change after more runs of the show.

There is some comedy to be had from the desperate life of a singing telegram but it might be better suited to a stand up routine. It certainly needs more substantial material to make it theatre.

Mike's parallel story of his relationship to football and his father's obsession with Mike's childhood success is unsuccessfully rendered through a series of voice overs and slides of Mike on a footy field with the under 12s.

These interludes read more as an excuse for Mike to go off stage to change telegram costumes than as a significant second layer to his story.

Perhaps a less literal representation of the telegram characters, fewer costume changes and more depth in the issues arising from Mike's despair or more gags about his predicament might take the piece to a new level.

By Kate Herbert

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