MICF: Van Park

Van Park
Van Park

Despite Van Parkhaving a chapel as a venue, no amount of praying could save this unholy mess.

As the venue doors opened, we were greeted with an announcement something like “Welcome to Van Park, for lovers of musical theatre and dick jokes.” Unfortunately this set the tone for the unsophisticated night to follow. Some of the scenes could have been funny, if played with a lighter, less crass touch.

The story centres on the caravan park run by old Rocker Akbar (legendary John Paul Young) with de facto wife Gypsy Fire (Cora James) and 16-year-old son Curly (Luke Webb). It is many decades after Akbar and Gypsy’s glory days at the top of the music charts. Akbar is gruff, blokey and one dimensional, deluding himself that he can make it back to the top of the music biz through local gigs with his pub rock band. James can sing – the same song twice very early on – and it is unfortunate that her talents were underused. Her character deserved to have more to do. An under-dressed travelling English dancer (Catriona Hamilton) plays an improbable love interest for Curly and is shamelessly used as eye-candy.

Steve Kilbey (a long way from his transcendent melodies with band The Church) seems to have fun as with his campy, quasi-mystical hippie Nebauchadnezzar, also living in the van park. His acoustic leanings, tie-dye and lurex provide a challenge to the electric noise favoured by Akbar, and even to the relationships Akbar has with his family. Despite the promising setup, there isn’t a whole lot of drama in this thin story, and even accounting for the fact that the venue was only around half full, it was clear that a number of the intended jokes fell flat.

When your female companion says at the interval, “This is probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen”, and after a slight pause you agree, this tells you something about the serious deficiencies of the production.

In a show celebrating bogans in a caravan park, the self-indulgence of Kilbey’s hippie ruminating on string theory and cosmology in song is mind bending. Do they really think their intended “Blokesworld” audience is interested in this? Actually, I wonder which group would be adequately entertained by this amateurish outing at $45 per adult ticket.

The most magical thing about the show was temporary time travel for the audience while we watched it – there couldn’t possibly be a show this poorly conceived and executed in 2012. Some of the problems shouldn’t even happen in a high school production, such as cast members being seen walking behind the set to get to their entrance point in the next scene, or people not singing into microphones.

While the band were competent in their pub rock offerings, and songs were well delivered, this can’t compensate for a chronic shortage of acting talent on stage, noted by some of the punters at the interval.

To top it all off, Akbar had an inexplicable change to his nature for the finale. After a makeover, JPY gets to belt out his 1975 hit “Yesterday’s Hero”, and it was a relief to see something done well on the night.

If you’re looking for a place to stop on the MICF highway, keep on driving folks!

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