IT’S 1912, and as Scott and Amundsen begin their race across Antarctica, the hapless explorer, Captain Reginald Scottt (yes – with three t’s and each one impeccably pronounced!) has accidentally landed on the wrong side of the continent.
As Scottt and his motley band set up base camp, a meteor crashes nearby. Deciding to investigate, they set out towards the crash site – unaware of the danger that awaits not just them, but the whole of planet earth. So begins (slightly modified) the advance publicity for Gonzo Moose’s latest production, which was brought by ArtsReach, Dorset’s touring arts charity, to Stalbridge last night. Inspired by numerous B-horror movies and packed with one old chestnut after another, Gonzo Moose’s wonderfully talented trio of actors, Mark Dawson (as Scottt himself), Alys Torrance and Ben Whitehead, played a dozen or more characters in this rip-roaring, rollicking comedy adventure.
The company had the large, enthusiastic audience in Stalbridge laughing before even the first words were spoken and quickly developed an easy rapport with us all. There was some lovely non-threatening banter and some hilarious one-liners too, some of which may well have not been scripted. “Small world!” one of the company mutters as he bumps into another as he is about to leave the stage carrying a small globe. That had me chuckling for quite some time! The numerous roles, distinguished simply by changing hats and adopting a variety daft accents, became an art in itself, reaching breakneck speed at the start of Part II in what I think was, for me at least, probably the best scene in the entire show.
The action was liberally interspersed with B-movie sound effects and some well-timed canned music, and while props and set were minimal, it’s amazing what you can achieve with some skiing paraphernalia, a few sheets, a supply of bubble-wrap and tons of imagination. The erection of the tent, for example, was masterfully handled, while the popping of the bubble wrap had us cringing and laughing in equal measure. Other equally ingenious effects were realised by the use of an overhead projector to show us one daft image after another, be it a pipe-smoking moustached hero in a “Boys’ Own Paper” pose or a map of the Antarctic consisting of a completely blank canvas with the four points of the compass all pointing north. The first appearance of the dastardly space monster in the depths of the meteor crater was also entirely accomplished, and to great effect, in children’s comic book style using colour transparencies with an ominous red overlay at the end.
Physical comedy and comic timing was at the heart of the production however and as I write I am laughing at the memory of one miserable member of the company attempting to have a wee in sub-zero temperatures whilst the others are dressing themselves in what look suspiciously like giant condoms in order to transform themselves into monstrous worms and thereafter eat the hapless explorer. It was hilarious in a grisly sort of way.
There were many other highlights too, among which was the skiing sequence early on in the show and the two songs introduced as part of the Antarctica Hut Cabaret – one, a pastiche love song “The Penguin’s Dream of Flying” and the other, an increasingly maniacal number delivered by an exceedingly tall Ben Whitehead accompanied by what appeared to be an exceedingly small piano accordion.
Despite all of this, all the laughs and all the sheer cleverness, Part I in particular was a bit slow at times and I am pretty sure the reason why was to do with the number of times the main plot line was side-tracked. Whilst each diversion was undeniably funny in its own right, the unfortunate overall effect was to slow down the progress of the main story; a case of trying to accommodate too many good things and too many bright ideas. How one would set about pruning the show though I wouldn’t like to guess. See it for yourself and see what you think. You can find their tour dates on www.gonzomoose.co.uk