Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Little Mercy ***

Little Mercy 
By Ash Flanders and Declan Greene, by Sisters Grimm
Where and When: Collingwood Underground Arts Park  March 17 to 27, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Deep in the bowels of an underground car park in Collingwood is the venue for Little Mercy, Sisters Grimm’s parody of a trashy, cult, horror movie. Think of Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist; then picture Mercy, (Susie Dee), a smiling, demonic, adult-sized child in a pretty, white dress and hair ribbons. Now be afraid.

The first half of this tribute to evil children is laugh-out-loud funny. Ash Flanders, co-writer, is outstanding as Virginia Summers, the delicate, almost-recovering alcoholic, New England housewife who longs for a child of her own. Her husband, Roger (Sean James Murphy), is a musical theatre director. (Now, that could be a horror show in itself.).

The Summers live a life of quiet comfort and luxury until – surprise, surprise! – little, 8-year old Mercy arrives, unannounced, on their doorstep, saying that she is their long-awaited, adoptive daughter from a suspiciously obscure orphanage.

Of course, Mercy is the child of Satan – literally – and Virginia’s life goes to hell in a hand basket very rapidly. Her precious kitty is killed, Mercy’s teacher (Cara Mitchell) is blinded, and there are stories about a mysterious fire that killed all the teachers at Mercy’s previous school.

The script, written by Flanders with director, Declan Greene, is riddled with satirical allusions to all the visual and verbal signatures of horror flicks and 1940s movies, their characters, plots, dialogue, and even their musical scores.

Flanders plays Virginia with an absolute commitment to truthfulness, playing it straight – if that is possible when wearing a red, velvet gown. Murphy captures the smug superiority of a 40s romantic lead, with his resonant voice and relentless smirk, while Dee revels in the grinning wickedness and sly asides of Mercy.

Mitchell works hard as the stitched up school ma’am but seems miscast in the role. One can’t help imagining it played by a huge drag queen or, well, Bette Davis. Her sexy nun was very funny though.

Little Mercy is a madly entertaining ride, although it needs some editing in the second half – and perhaps some exit doors and safety features.

By Kate Herbert

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