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Wizards in the Senate Room

Hats off to UQ’s Anywhere Festival team for providing access to the University Senate Room, reworked over the last two weekends to present The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere.

The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere introduces the ‘background’ characters who live in the previously unknown village (or is it now only a hamlet?) of Villhedgetowne. This being a medieval fantasy, wizards are a normal part of everyday life—as are talking llamas, chickens, and chairs. The play centres on Marlon and Guylian, two young aspiring wizards, who use magic when competing in a village festival to win the coveted purse of 500 pieces of silver: one to fund medical treatment for his grandmother (an ailing chicken), and the second to buy the chariot of his dreams (and attract the girls).

The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere is a slightly silly, and occasionally, witty farce that draws inspiration from a variety of UK cult TV hits—including Monty Python, Blackadder, and even possibly The Young Ones. Plus occasional references to Harry Potter. In my own ‘spot which TV program this came from’ bingo, I felt that the Baron (played by Adam Hasa?) appeared to draw heavily on Rik Mayall’s Blackadder Lord Flashheart, with a sprinkling of John Cleese’s Monty Python silly walks.

Picture: The Baron in The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The cast of twelve were an enthusiastic and entertaining group—adopting a range of accents, managing quick changes through a variety of costumes, and performing many roles (Shanay De Marco, Cherie Moss, Samatha Sherrin, Emma Windress, Sophie Banister, Stephanie Varidel, John Siggers, Levi Wilcox, Jodan Schulte, Kyle McCallion, Adam Hasa, and Lionel Spoonman). My personal favourite characters were Marlon, Guylian, Lily (a modern heroine), and the Chair (fabulous energy, great dancing, and a believable chair-who-wanted-to-be-human). But there were also some lovely cameos from the whole cast—including the shuffling see-all DPC, the tree, Grandma Chicken, Brad, and the Town Cryer.

Hats off also to those behind-the-scenes. I loved the music (Alessandra Romano, audio and lighting tech, and also ‘Marlon Vs Guylian’ remixing by Michael James Corbett), and there was a wide selection of props and set changes (managed thanks to the stagehanding of Lachlan Varidel).

This particular medieval fantasy adventure is a passion project of Adam Hasa, Jordan Schulte and Cherie Moss. Schulte and Hasa performed in the show, as well as were credited as co- writers, co-producers, and co-directors. Moss also joined the cast, and was credited as a co-producer, as well as responsible for costume design, production design and stage management. Having attended the Friday 28 May performance, I’d suggest that this team needed to have a fourth person in the mix; a dramaturg, co-director or co-writer with a red pen.

Picture: Grandma Chicken and her apprentice wizard grandson in The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere probably had sufficient material for a whole TV series. Advertised as a show of 110 minutes, I felt that this particular work would have been great at no more than 90 minutes. On Friday night it ran to 131 minutes (including interval). Edits might include reducing the competition to just one round. Perhaps some of the smaller characters could have been lost, and fewer set changes would also have kept the pace moving along.

Hasa and Schulte have Anywhere Festival form, with earlier shows featuring in the 2018 and 2019 programs (including the award-winning 2018 The Uber To Hell). For me, Wizards had the potential to be a winner; but it requires a serious edit first. Having said that, the team clearly had fun, and the final show is already sold out. And perhaps alone that makes it a success for Hasa, Schulte and the team.

Verdict: With significant edits, The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere could be a hit.  

Catherine Lawrence

Audience information: The Play About Wizards and Music in a Village Somewhere took place in the Senate Room, The University of Queensland St Lucia campus. Six performances during the 2021 Anywhere Festival. Tickets: $30 ($25 concession). 18+ (some coarse language and sexual references).

The reviewer attended the Friday 28 May 2021 (7pm) performance.