Lord Byron’s epic poem Don Juan tells the story of a man who flits from one amorous adventure to another, one war to another, pirates, ghosts and cannibals.
Moliere’s play Dom Juan has the amorous adventures of Byron’s epic but adds in fire and brimstone, religious blasphemy and a statue that talks.
New Zealand’s A Slightly Isolated Dog pays homage to both texts from the canons of literature and theatre – slightly; and fires their own retelling of the story of Don Juan into a maelstrom mix of slapstick, absurd, melodrama, farce, interactive and immersive theatre.
And its fun. These high camp performers entertain; and the fun starts before you even enter the theatre. The actors greet you in the foyer, flirt with you, walk you to your seats, and playfully banter with you before the show begins. And this tete a tete is contrived because they are scouting for good sports among the audience who will allow themselves to be objects of fun and silly mayhem because this performance is designed for maximum audience interaction. You could say that this is scripted immersive theatre as members of the audience become jilted lovers, unrequited lovers, a talking statue (all reading lines from a ridiculously silly script); at other times the audience become trees as they hold up shredded and tattered umbrellas and even a storm at sea as they make waves while holding up a giant canvas.
Sensibilities are challenged – you will cringe, (I did) you will laugh at the high camp silliness and you will avoid eye contact with cast members as they scout the bleachers for willing and unwilling participants in this mayhem.
The energy from the performers is infectious and you laugh senselessly at the inventive yet ridiculously absurd Ubuesque lost at sea moment. You will hiss the villain, even shoot the villain in theatrical moments taken straight out of Victorian Melodrama. The audience are encouraged to shout, shoot, stand, but mostly laugh. And you laugh from the word go – even when you are cringing. And isn’t that what theatre does – it takes you on an emotional ride, even when you are out of your comfort zone.
The cast, Susie Berry, Jack Buchanan, Andrew Paterson, Jonathon Price and Comfrey Sanders are graduates of the Toi Whakaari Drama School and they know how to work an audience as they overact with their fake French accents.
But they can sing too. Really well. And for me the singing was the highlight of the show.
A Slightly Isolated Dog’s Don Juan is really good cabaret. It’s immersive, edgy, outrageous and interactive; with theatrical canons and conventions being bent, reshaped and reworked in a gloriously enjoyable performance.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review By Bob Becker