Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Squizzy by Barry Dickins ***

Squizzy by Barry Dickins 
By Think Big Productions
Trades Hall Ballroom, until Nov 27, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Both Squizzy Taylor and playwright, Barry Dickins, are unforgettable Melbourne identities, so it is fitting that Dickins write a musical about the notorious Squizzy’s life of crime on the streets of Fitzroy in the 1920s.

Dickins’ eccentric writing style could be described as poetic Australianism. He weaves local slang and swearing amongst metaphor, sophisticated lingo and lyrical imagery. It is a killer combo – just like Squizzy was. Dickins’ other characters describe Squizz as, “a particularly foul and sluttish rodent…a midget, droopy-eyed and on the nose.”

Director, Greg Carroll, gives the production and characters a vaudeville style. They are all in clown white-face but the make-up is reminiscent of Mo, Roy Rene’s Australian clown. Peter Corrigan’s set is a black and white echo of Dickins’ own mad cartoons and is scribbled with Aussie colloquialisms.

The songs by Faye Bendrups are in the style of Kurt Weill, which makes sense as Squizzy’s criminal activities smack of Macheath in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. Bendrups plays piano accompanied by others on drums, saxophone, trombone and double bass providing a mix of rough jazz and blues that reeks of the 20s and 30s.

Syd Brisbane plays Squizzy as a cheeky but dangerous little clown who would kill you for a quid. He revels in Squizzy’s devilish mayhem. Simon Mallory is Snowy Cutmore, the friend and rival who shoots Squizzy 27 times during their final battle. The cast includes an imposing Mike Bishop as various lawyers, crims, corrupt cops (“I always lie, I take a bribe.”) and a sophisticated Devil (“Dance with the devil. Let’s make it Lucifer’s shout.”)

Kevin Hopkins is hilarious as dopey Syd Curd and three women (Jacqueline Cook, Kate Hosking, Chloe Connolly) play a sassy chorus of prostitutes à la Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. Cook is vivacious and funny as Ma Cutmore.

The dialogue is inimitable Dickins with such lines as,  “Shut your cakehole and show absolutely no initiative like the rest of Melbourne.” He even writes the ten commandments of criminals that include, “Inform on your mother” and “Fix horse races.” Squizzy is a hoot and it’s about our own mean, little Melbourne killer.

By Kate Herbert

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