What’s in the box, Pandora?! What’s in the boxxxx?! A Review of the 2021 UTS CRAP Revue
The night begins with a heavy disclaimer: “This is a work in progress.” Director Kerim Col makes confronting eye-contact when he stresses that to me. Behind him, co-director Eleni Carydis wrangles their actors in a showcase of her cat-herding skills. All around the rehearsal space, the energy is that of creation and chaos. Ragged edges being smoothed, stage directions hollered from the desk behind us. The cast mills about and paces like nervous horses at the gate. Before long, Col and Carydis shout, “Lights up!” and I’m treated to a preview of what could be for the 2021 CRAP Revue.
An animation sets the scene before the Greek Gods assemble for an emergency meeting. Today’s agenda? That snekky-Becky Pandora (played by the wide-eyed Aisha Herbert) just had to see what was in that box, didn’t she! (Or perhaps the endearingly oafish Zeus (Elliot Collins) is to blame for making the box in the first place? Plagues? Wars?! Jesus, dude, chill). With no props or costumes, the cast works entirely on illusion, lurching from an infectiously charming opening number to witty skits unpacking what exactly was in that dang box. After all, the conceit of the show is chaos, unleashed by student hearts and talent. There’s an urgency to their performances as if they’re treading water. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain—no matter how loudly he yells, “Stage right! No, your other right!”
For the most part, it’s hit after hit. Vampire in-laws. Aussie politag. Irish nuns. The fearsome Twinknapper. Surreal and absurdist, gender-blind and over-acted, a revue is always the height of college humour, infused with influences from seemingly everywhere. The rule of thumb is that the strangest idea usually wins, and to make it work, the cast must leave it all out on the field. Skits glance from beat to biting beat, the flow generally broken up well by silly songs and Python-esque videos. (Kudos to the upsettingly-talented Steph Sustano and Corey Dale for the latter). After a well-deserved intermission, the second act accelerates toward a foot-stomping climax, and by curtain, the cast are just dang proud they got through it. It’s hard not to be a lil’ proud of them, too.
There are moments that blindside the fourth wall. Sometimes I miss dialogue because the room’s deadening acoustics eat it, or an actor accidentally tracks gaffer tape across the stage like errant bog roll. There’s an occasional embarrassed need for, “Line?!” and much giggling when the music stops to load. But this ragtag bunch rolls with the punches. What sells the hope of the show for me is the wholehearted belief the actors have in the worlds they’re creating. (And I’m convinced Col and Carydis are the bonafide spiritual avatars of Bridezilla and Kong. Let them fight).
Not all the jokes land and the pacing intermittently drags. Skits occasionally run slightly too long and the punchlines periodically falter. You’ll also need to brush up on your Zoomer Humour: Aussie Edition to catch every reference (a guide which, sadly, was not provided beneath our seats). Generally speaking though, the whole thing works. Don’t know who Elon Musk’s son is? That’s fine, just revel in Queenie Colquhoun’s robotic writhing on the floor. Is the Flintstones a deep cut? Abbey Cummins’s vroom vroom noises will leave you breathless anyway. The cast has a charismatic rapport that brings life to the space, the kind forged by long rehearsal hours and the vulnerability theatre requires. When the satire is sharp, it is scathing. When it’s not, it’s just…fine? But that’s okay!
Without damning with faint praise, I’m not here for flawless. I’m here for fun. And if I had fun with the work in progress, audiences will have a blast with the polished, finished show. One must be quite prepared to suspend disbelief, but if laughter is the reward for doing so, then whaddya got to lose? Come for a cathartic night out, but stay for the delights of Ruby Brookes’s menacing pram koala. You might still see the man behind the curtain, but why nitpick the poor bugger? The word “amateur” comes from the Latin “amare”, which means “to love”. There is no greater joy than watching lovely people have the time of their lives.
PANDORA: 9 OUT OF 10 GODS HATE HER will be opening at the ARA Darling Quarter Theatre stage from April 28 – May 1. Opening night has SOLD OUT! And the following nights are selling just as fast! Grab your tickets here!
For more information, head to the UTS Comedy, Revue & Performance Society Facebook page. All proceeds from the show will directly help shape and support the upcoming POC Revue in August 2021.
Evlin DuBose is a graduated Media Arts & Production and Creative Writing student. She’s an Australian-American, daisy-punk creative with music on Spotify and short films on YouTube. You can find her work at linktr.ee/evlin