Donny – The Rock Opera
Monkey With A Gun Theatre Guild @ Little Theatre
10:00pm, Mon 27 Feb 2006
It sounds like an idea so stupid that it might possibly work: a rock opera based on the life of the World’s Greatest Batsman, Sir Donald Bradman. And the band (who I was informed by the pissed kid next to me consists of local legends Pornland) were bloody brilliant throughout. Tight and punchy, they delivered the ROCK side of the equation in spades. But what about the OPERA bit?
The first act was, frankly, embarrassing. It supposedly followed the Don’s childhood through to The Invincible’s domination of England, but the amount of grief that the actors had with their microphone headsets meant that most of the lyrics for the first act were rendered inaudible – it also seemed to indicate that they hadn’t even performed a full dress rehearsal. Despite this, the band chugged out the odd cracking song, before the interval (“ladies and gentlemen… that’s drinks” came a Benaud-esque nasal incantation). Pity there were no drinks to be had.
The second act began with a lot more promise – headsets were firmly taped to the actors heads, which at least meant the audience were privy to the gist of the performance. This act dealt with the BodyLine attack, the Don’s premature retirement and return, before returning to the opening scene of the performance – Bradman’s duck dismissal in his final innings. There was a crackingly amusing song or two (“The Art Of Cricket” springs to mind) and a belter of a singalong feel-good finish which left most of the sell-out first-night crowd happy.
Not me, though. Acting was what you’d expect from an opera (ie, wooden), singing was mostly passable – but the problems lay with the script. Technical problems aside, the big problem with “Donny” was that, with only a few exceptions, it took itself too seriously. You’d think that, when considering a rock opera based on the life of a great cricketer and recluse, you might want to stash your tongue firmly in your cheek; not the case here, to the detriment of the piece.
Sometimes, I’ve got to realise that an idea that sounds so stupid it could work is just… stupid.