Drama Prepare to be freaked out

Prepare to be freaked out

If you ever wanted proof that the boogieman really does exist, just go and see Quack! It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Gothic, downbeat and seriously creepy, this show should ideally be seen at the witching hour by all ghoulishly inclined types who have ingested some illegal mind-altering substance.

For the rest of us though, it’s a bit of an enigma wrapped up in a head-scratching conundrum. Director Rob Murray and the FTH:K theatre company have made a name for themselves delivering exciting, cutting-edge theatre for deaf and hearing audiences, by deaf and hearing performers.

The ethos of their non-verbal theatre is “listen with your eyes” and indeed, their Pictures of You and this year’s Womb Tide hit all the right buttons and displayed a fresh, invigorating approach to stagecraft that compels the viewer to look beyond the obvious.

Standard Bank Young Artist
Their productions have helped propel puppet artist Janni Younge into the stratosphere – she is the current Standard Bank Young Artist award winner for Theatre and her Ouroboros show on the Main programme is eagerly awaited. Younge’s puppet masks are things of wonder, but even they cannot save Quack! from being, well, oblique. If their aim is to make storytelling accessible, they do not fully succeed with this production.

The styling of the play is fabulously underground and offbeat: the actors’ totem-like masks and Transylvania-type garb are The Addams Family meets Corpse Bride meets Picasso meets the Brothers Grimm meets David Lynch on a particularly zany day.

The masks, by Younge and Emilie Starke, are true works of art: ostensibly expressionless and blank, they magically change mood with the tilt of an actor’s head or a shift in lighting. The problem lies in how the story is told. It is fortunate for audience members that the programme gives a detailed outline of the plot, although with good theatre no explanation should be necessary.

Quack! tells of a man (Daniel Buckland) who lies dying in hospital, and enters a parallel universe where he is a mystical healer-cum-evangelist. His spirit-self travels the land, accompanied by his assistant (Liezl de Kock) and a posse of acolytes, extracting and harvesting the essence from his followers. And like Frankenstein (and Frank ’N Furter), he’s cooking up something human in his lab.

All well and good in theory, but in practice it doesn’t quite gel. It is edgy without being engaging, and that’s not really enough to reel in your audience. It’s noble to prod them into thinking and speculating about these characters with their creepy, glum visages, but without eye contact and a sense of being ‘with them’, they have to work extra hard to connect and communicate with the audience, and the storyline should accommodate this as well.

Considering the fact that it scared the bejesus out of many of us adults, it’s obviously not advisable to take kids or those prone to nightmares along to see this show. Some people left the theatre thinking that this was a seriously weird, freaky encounter. The rest of us decided to go and take out Psycho or The Exorcist on DVD for some light viewing after this disturbing bout of dark theatre.

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