Thursday 13 June 2019

Rudy & Cuthbert - Theatre Review

What: Rudy & Cuthbert
When: 12 - 22 June 2019
Where: The Lawler Studio, Southbank Theatre
Created and performed by: Toby Blome and Zelman Cressey-Gladwin
Zelman Cressey-Gladwin and Toby Blome
Get ready for an hour of fun filled master clowning with Rudy & Cuthbert. Beckettian absurdism meets modern theatre making in this high clowning romp across the Lawler Studio stage this week before the pair head back to Sydney to tell part II of this sweet and hilarious tale.

Rudy & Cuthbert are the creation of NIDA graduates Cressey-Gladwin and Blome. A comedy pair to rival our greatest clowns, the pair have come to the stage to produce the classic stage play 12 Angry Men. Their management skills are nowhere near as good as their comedy skills though so things do not happen in the right order and, as Murphy always told us, what can go wrong does go wrong. The question is can their friendship survive their incompetence?

The show begins straight out of the Beckett playbook. In a kind of Godot/Act Without Words hybrid they enter the stage and seem very surprised to see us. Much of the show is clever and well executed mime and, to be honest, when there was text I almost felt irritated - like it was a cheat. It is well used though and all adds to the hilarity and surprise of the event.

Thinking today was supposed to be bump in, not performance, the pair handle the situation well and in the interests of efficiency decide to speed up casting by auditioning the audience. Don't be afraid - this is not scary audience interaction stuff! It is more a case of these two have never even heard of the theatrical 4th wall.

Rudy & Cuthbert is an hour of solving theatre making problems the most ineffective way possible. Complete with a Rocky Balboa tech rehearsal dance break and an 80's wind machine power ballad Rudy and Cuthbert struggle to make it to opening night and stay close. As funny as this is, all of us who have ever tried to make indie theatre know every moment of pain and despair which sits below this comedic farce.

What sets Rudy & Cuthbert a step above a lot of other shows of this nature is their absolute understanding, and technical mastery of, the tradition of clowning. This show honours all of the great traditions whilst the pair bring a fresh and modern take. I kept thinking of strong clowning pairs such as The Umbilical Brothers although the material and style are very different.

My one criticism is they perhaps should let the show end at it's naturally resting place rather than push that last extra step. Having said that, it ends as it starts - breaking audience expectation - and that is an important part of the aesthetic and intention of the show. It brings a lot of laughs so hey, do what you want guys because you do it so damn well!

Highly infused with the hilarity of big top circus clowning, but with the delicacy and nuance of an absurdist theatrical aesthetic, Rudy & Cuthbert is a super fun night of theatre. I can't wait to see the next episode when it comes to Melbourne!

4.5 stars

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