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February 25, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Sensible Susan and the Queens Merkin – A Morality Play

Theatre Militia brings us yet another victory this Fringe Festival with Sensible Susan and the Queens Merkin — A Morality Play. Drawing upon children’s literature such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and theatrical forms such as English pantomime, Sensible Susan is a triumph of theatricality that combines all the necessary elements to produce a very funny and engaging show.

The play opens with a chorus of camp individuals, doused in make-up and 19th Century undergarments, who introduce the shows unlikely heroine, Susan (played by Bex Joyce).

Sensible Susan is very much the “middle of the road” hero in this adventure. Unwilling to step out of routine, her world is knocked in a kerfuffle when her husband, Simon Simple, disappears. A lavishly dressed Queen (reminiscent of the dame from pantomime), played fabulously by Felix Preval, soon swoops in announcing that Simon has been taken into the underworld. Arming Susan with her merkin (a wig of the pubic region), she sets off into the netherworld to search out her lost husband.

The show’s aesthetic uses all of the conventions necessary to draw forth a world rich in theatricality. An arrangement of sheets across the back quarter of the stage allowed for some fun silhouette moments, such as Susan being attacked by bats on her way through the wardrobe. The highlight of the show for me was the pageant of the “Seven Dead Sins” — not the deadly sins, mind, but the sins that have been made redundant. Told in puppet show format, Theatre Militia’s skill is exemplified here by their ability to cleverly combine design, performance and novelty factor.

While I adored the show for its conscious use of theatrical convention, there were none the less a few moments with which I took some issue, not least the scene in “Hell’s Pantry.” I thought the physical actions of the performers (or lack thereof, as they were playing statues) combined with mask work created a remarkable image, but I had trouble connecting the cultural references of the Spice Girls to the actions and themes of the play.

As predicted, Theatre Militia has once again given us another excellent show. As graduates from Victoria, they set a very high standard of work for us to meet and remain both inspiration and aspiration to all of us studying theatre.

Written by Felix Preval and Theatre Militia
Directed by Rachel Lenart
At BATS from Feb 18 to Feb 22

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