The Blue Room Theatre
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
We’re not actors. This isn’t a play, Finn O’Branagain and Scott Sandwich warn us. Well, that’s OK, Finn and Scott! We audiences are well used to seeing lots of productions and performers that don’t fall under those categories at The Blue Room! Uh…what I mean is, The Blue Room opens its doors to all different kinds of performers and performances, so you are very welcome to do your unique thing for our pleasure!
And it was indeed a pleasure to watch The Epic. O’Branagain and Sandwich are retelling a few of the most epic epics of all time from around the world. They deconstruct myths from just about every continent in the space of about an hour, and do it in a way that’s full of spark and barb, irreverence and passion. They draw parallels between ancient tales and modern pop culture, such as the Epic Of Gilgamesh and The Fast And The Furious franchise, with surprising dexterity. I mean, Sandwich’s enthusiasm for the epicness of the latter was infectious to the point that I may have almost been convinced I have been missing out by avoiding those movies. Almost.
In any case, I was expecting something akin to a TED talk or a uni lecture, but was delighted to see these two get all theatrical in their show. O’Branagain and Sandwich have different approaches to the material, with Sandwich delivering his favourite stories through deadpan humour and contemporary language, while O’Branagain kept a bit of a traditional touch, making more emotional connections with the stories. This dynamic works well, keeps the pace interesting, and adds the spice of life to their presentation. Standout moments are Sandwich’s lightning round where he recounts the Finnish epic The Kalevala in practically one breath, and O’Branagain’s bipolar interpretation of a Native American legend from the Seneca tribe about a vampire zombie.
These two pack a lot of learning and laughs together in this little production; you’ll walk away wanting to learn more for yourself, to revisit the classics like The Iliad (or, ahem, discover them for the first time). But the thing I held my breath for was hearing what kind of myth, legend or epic they’d tell us from this great continent. Would they give us Waltzing Matilda or would they dare to delve into the rich landscape of Indigenous stories? Turns out, neither one. They do acknowledge Australia’s barbaric past and touch on the fact that not much has changed with respect to contemporary Australia’s creation myth. But they don’t presume to stand in for Aboriginal storytellers, and they note that even they feel like impostors telling other culture’s stories. It’s an interesting side-step, and one that’s worth further debate.
In any case, the show has a cute little mountain silhouette set designed by Desmond Tan, and nice lighting, sound and AVs that boost this non-play further into theatrical territory. I suspect it would be a perfect tidbit for the Fringe circuit as well as an educational setting (with perhaps a few small language changes, of course), and could expand and evolve as it goes. Even if you are totally over the word epic, get back to its true origin with Finn and Scott – they’ll literally remind you how great an epic can be.