Furious Angels


This off-the-wall black comedy set in a 1930’s mental asylum entertained with its star and humour, but the story left me unsatisfied.

Presented by Metro Arts – The Independents 2010
Sue Benner Theatre, Edward St, Brisbane

Wednesday, 3 November, 2010 

This off-the-wall black comedy set in a 1930’s mental asylum entertained with its star and humour, but the story left me unsatisfied.

Furious Angels is a one-man-show involving a narrator who tells a tale of those that inhabit the horrid place that is a psychiatric hospital at a time when electro-therapy was being introduced. Star Daniel Mulvihill was a delight as a lone actor playing five distinct roles, but the potential for intensity and moral teachings was lost amongst the style and absurdity.

The storytelling method gave the show a grim fairy-tale feel and this took away from most meaningful substance the play had. There were some slight undertones, but without reading the program I wouldn’t have picked what they were. It was difficult to build empathy for the characters as the role changes were often and the concentration regularly broken by the pieces from the narrator.

Villain and head physician, and probably the craziest of them all, Dr Aintel, is power-hungry and evil. The problem I had with this character was his very cartoon-like manner. It was highly contrasted against more sincere characters like Dizzy; a somewhat prophet taunted by visions of the past and the terrifying future. Mulvihill showed a deep understanding for what life for Dizzy would have been like and I thoroughly enjoyed this particular performance. Another patient, soft spoken Will, was another good character who only spoke in poetry. Mulvihill’s portrayal of the only female character, nurse Lenore, didn’t really work. His femininity came across more camp gay man than softly spoken woman, and I couldn’t figure out if this was intentional or not.

Mulvihill had a powerful presence allowing him to work very well as a solo performer. His character’s traits and demeanours were unique and distinct, making it easy for him to transition without confusion for the audience. The humour was very cutting and he delivered it well.

Set and costumes designed by director Travis Dowling, David Burton and Carley Commens were good. A simple platform containing a few trap doors worked effectively for Mulvihill’s subtle changes throughout.

Lighting design by Ben Hughes was a starring feature of the show and essential in mood creation. Lighting angles from the side of stage created some interesting effects and also an interesting visual. In contrast, I found the sound design by Kylie Morris sometimes clashed with the tones of the play.

I appreciated the absurdity of this show but I wanted more depth. Perhaps I made this mistake of expecting it to be very deep and meaningful – with a topic like mental illness – but despite the creators’ intentions, it has turned out to be just a bit of dark fun.

Furious Angels is showing until the 20th of November 2010

Bookings at www.metroarts.com.au.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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