State Theatre Company @ Odeon Theatre
11:00am, Wed 1 Mar 2006
And so we come to my first Festival (as in Adelaide Festival of the Arts) event of 2006 – the State Theatre Company production of Peter Goldsworthy’s novel. It’s pitched as a black comedy, mixing up the much-loved themes of power, corruption, and lies. And religion. Descriptions look inviting, but Honk misses the mark.
The set is great – a Barbarella-esque 60’s sci-fi extravaganza, all brushed metal and curves and glass tubes. Cheesy, in a friendly way. Similar, then, to the acting – friendly, slightly wooden, inoffensive and unconvincing; the characters are bold, larger than life, leaving little room for subtlety. Greg Stones’ Reverend Schultz and Jonathan Mills’ flamboyant Tad are the standouts, though Caroline Mignone should also get props for performing on a recently twisted ankle.
Honk starts off in a relatively pedestrian manner, corny dialogue and clichéd bickering over a coffin. The relationship between science and religion is everywhere – the DNA helix strands in the Schultz University cross logo, Mara handling her medical equipment with the sanctity of holy artifacts, Mary-Beth’s happiness at being used/abused demonstrating faith-over-fact. There’s some fun to be had with the overhead video screens – audience groans are rife during Schultz’s colonoscopic procedure, especially when the camera is extracted from his anus – notably, the same detailed visual courtesy was not shown during Mary-Beth’s subsequent impregnation.
Some cheap laughs are gleaned from the Schultz wank scene; however, the best of the production lies near the end, when the drama and humour coalesce into a near-slapstick finale: a humorous review of the Virgin Birth from the point-of-view of a modern doctor, the triumph of the gay head-butt, the predictable – but still amusing – climactic birth.
Overall, this is a blunt, but only somewhat enjoyable, production that lacks finesse. Cynically, one wonders why it’s included within the Festival program.