The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville, Astronaut and Gentleman [FringeTIX]
Adelaide University Fringe Club @ Union Cinema
6:30pm, Wed 4 Mar 2009
The title The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville, Astronaut and Gentleman should impart a pretty good idea as to the intent of this production; you should be thinking tally-ho, stiff-upper-lip, I say! Graham Pennyworth, a somewhat wussy chap in modern-day England, suddenly finds himself in a Victorian-era-esque parallel universe, where he is the spitting image of Stoke Mandeville’s offsider, Carstairs. They engage in wacky adventures, seeking out their villainous French nemesis (using a carefully devised game of cricket, no less), before returning the invigorated Pennyworth to his rightful dimension.
Errrm… yes. That just about covers it.
In terms of performance, Matthew Taylor is simply superb as Stoke – his ample frame and booming voice dominates proceedings, with a fair dollop of dry humour thrown in for good measure. As the other leading man, James Moffatt’s Pennyworth is initially unconvincing, but gets better as he adopts more of Carstairs personality later in the piece. The Narrators are also ace, propelling the story along with aplomb – albeit skipping humourously over the exciting bits – but I can’t help but think that there hasn’t been enough rehearsal time allowed: the dialogue is a litany of lost lines and plump pauses. There’s also the amateurish handling of scene changes, with ramshackle shuffling of props on- and off-stage – but even that finds a way to seem endearing.
It’s not quite the two hours suggested in the Guide – a tight 80 minutes, starting late – but the Uni Fringe Club’s maiden voyage should be considered a reasonable success. Entertaining? Yes. Quality theatre? Not really – it’s decidedly amateur. Worthwhile? Hmmmmm… with so much else on, the jury’s still out… but you’ll note that I didn’t chuck it on the Must-See List. Bit of a hint there, I reckon.