I love the arts and creativity. My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for film, theatre, comedy and improv shows. Now I'm a professional creative content producer, mostly on digital platforms.
Brisbanites are such sooks about the cold. If it sinks below 25 degrees we pull out the cardigans and scarves. So it was lovely to see a sold out opening night audience arrive for The Virtuous Burglar, which is playing until 24th of May as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, despite it being 12 degrees (app. temperature 10 - the sort of weather that usually has us all running for our couches and snuggies).
Taylor King Gallery in Newmarket was Host to The Virtuous Burglar
Fighting an urge to hibernate under a donah, numb of nose and with frozen cold fingers, I made my way to the corrugated iron shed that was to be the stage for this evening's show. Taylor King Gallery in Thurlow Street, Newmarket is a stone's throw from my home, but it felt a world away as I trundled past a worse for wear wooden fence strung with flickering fairy lights toward the beaming producer wo-maning the box office.
One of Many Fine Works on the Walls at Taylor King Gallery
I was able to snap a few pre show pics of the lovely trinkets, artworks and furnishings that adorned the gallery, adding to the feeling you're in for something special. I'm a terrible eavesdropper when I go along alone to review plays, and smiled to myself in agreement as I heard a lady say, "It's nice that they made the artwork part of the living room."
Living room. Not stage. Not set. Living room. That's the power of theatre and in particular the sort of theatre you see at the Anywhere Theatre Festival. Before the non-existent curtain had raised we were already believing in the other world we're about to witness spring to life amid Eames catalogue classics, Edwardian armchairs, and a crystal vase bursting with bright yellow wattle.
Normally I'm not a fan of physical contact with strangers (fluffy puppies and kittens, by all means, come at me, but humans… meh) however, because I'm from Brisbane and a sook about the cold, I welcomed the respite from the biting wind as the audience took their seats and the body heat from the friendly lady to my left who was getting liquored up on a house red and the ones to my right, huddled under a fuzzy olive alpaca blanket, worked its magic.
As the toe tapping soul tunes being spun by not one but two deejays (one to spin tunes, one to ward off the frozen wind I assume) faded out with the lights, the double steel doors were pulled closed and the farcical fun began.
Matthew Filkins as the eponymous Burglar immediately began trying to 'break in' to the venue, much to the delight of the crowd. People whispered and giggled in anticipation, and were even more delighted once he began simultaneously robbing the place and fielding an unhinged phone call from his paranoid wife.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Dario Fo's crazy-strong female characters and stories full of farcical misadventure. I don't mind a bit of a saucy joke and a funny facial expression. Like the audience, some of the cast took a little while to warm up, but stand out performances were delivered by the aforementioned Filkins as the Burglar, Luisa Prosser as the Burglar's Wife, with some solid moments of physical comedy from Rueben Witsenhuysen as Man.
Director Heidi Manche has done a lovely job with the blocking of the show, especially with the moments of physical comedy. The original play has been slightly tinkered with, to very amusing affect, to be set in contemporary Brisbane, rather than the original's 1950s Italy. There are some fun in-jokes and references locals will enjoy.
While mostly light-hearted, adultery, expectations and lies are at the heart of the play's theme. The thing that really stood out for me was how much fun the audience were having. Everyone was engaged with and invested in the show's characters and their unravelling lies. Some people looked like they might fall off their seats from laughing so hard at the chase scene set to Yakety Sax and the song and dance scene at the end had the audience leaving on a high note.
This show's not one for the little kiddies, but would probably be fine for those about 15 and up. If it's a cold night when you're going, just pull on an extra cardigan and a scarf and the laughs will warm you up in no time.