The ocean is a scary place. The parody novel “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” tells us this. It is this notion that sits at the centre of Act/React’s latest work “Kiss of the Vampire Squid”, an improvised presentation which tells the tale of one of the evil things that lurk in the ocean’s depths. Exactly what that thing is, however, depends upon audience suggestions.
On opening night, based on audience offerings, the nautically-themed myth is of an unusual (6 limbed) lying, deceitful starfish known as Emma. Her story begins not on the sea floor, but rather aboard a ship, The Widow’s Delight, aka HMAS Diamantina, a 1944 Royal Australian Navy frigate, dry docked at the Queensland Maritime museum at Southbank. The Anywhere Theatre Festival work sees the unusual theatre location reappropriated to become a science vessel in uncharted seas. Upon the historic vessel’s quarterdeck, young deckhand Jack is looking forward to a future of adventure beyond book learning. The other able seaman and science officers aboard are more concerned with science (of the putting pins in things sort) because you can do anything in the name of science, as an ongoing show theme and some musical numbers tell us.
From the moment audience members are welcomed aboard as ‘fresh meat’, there is a relaxed and enjoyable feel to the experience. Unlike their former smash, sell-out hits “Speed: The Movie, The Play” and “Titanic: The Movie, The Play”, there is not active audience participation aside from involvement in a water pistol attack. Rather it is just audience member’s random suggestions that are taken on board (#seewhatIdidthere). The cast (or should I say crew) are full or enthusiastic energy as they guide the audience through what is essentially a quite flimsy storyline. Comparative to their earlier works, it suffers a little from this lack of direction and there are moments when transitions aren’t always fluent, with performers sometimes taking some time to respond to or catchup with each other’s direction, as is a peril of an improvised work. While this may leave audiences a little out to sea (#andagain), this was the first show of its season and I imagine this will only improve.
As is so often the case with Anywhere Theatre Festival shows, “Kiss of the Vampire Squid” takes audiences to some very unusual, different places, both physically and in its show’s direction. Having the action play out on board the ship is ingenious, especially in its contrast against the show’s deliberately dodgy props, which are as hilarious as they are inventive. It is definitely still worth a look, if only to sea comedy afresh (#couldnthelpmyself). Rug up though; the promise that cooler nights are coming means that an evening on board with the sea creatures has potential to leave audience members with timbers well and truly shivered (#heeheehee).
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 10.