Saturday, 14 September 2019

Batmania Bus Tour - Theatre Review

What: Batmania Bus Tour
When: 11 - 21 September 2019
Where: St Kilda
Written and performed by: Elliott Gee, Raymond Martini, Indiah Mone, and Vidya Rajan
Costumes by: Honor Wolff

Vidya Rajan
One thing we know about Melbourne because of all the plaques and street signs and monuments is a dude called John Batman was one of the white people who got here first. His legacy is the kind of gift that keeps on giving and The Very Good Looking Initiative invite you to a township named after his lordship just as he always wanted - Batmania! Batmania is having it's very own Expo this year at Theatre Works, and for the truly adventurous there is also a Batmania Bus Tour.

I got to go on the bus tour and I can honestly say I saw a completely different side of the town I used to know as St Kilda. What side did I see? I have no idea, but I laughed so much I choked along the way.

The Batmania Expo and Bus Tour are anti-theatre horror comedies. What does this mean? Who knows? What I can tell you is that the experience takes you on a ride and spits in the face of expectation.

As all good bus tours do, the passengers are treated to a Batmanian tourism video highlighting the achievements of the community, their cultural distinctions, and some important local safety warnings. Zimpy means hungry and if you call something a gull it can be a compliment or an insult for example.

The most important information you will get however, is the local EHS warnings. The rules are simple. 1. Do not touch the sand. 2. If you touch the sand, do not touch your face. Like all normal people we - and the tour guides - forget or ignore the warnings almost as soon as they are spoken. If you are addicted to zombie stories you are going to love the Batmania Bus Tour.

Gee is the mullet wearing bus driver who is forced to work with new tour guides (Rajan and Martini) who have done the locals out of a job. The tour guides have only been in Batmania for 3 weeks yet are quite good at describing local attractions despite not aving had the chance to experience them yet. There is one little detail they forgot... Sight seeing bus tours don't work so well in the dead of night...

It all starts innocently enough with plenty of photo stops of unlit edifices and exhortations to marvel at the abundance of avian architecture to be found in Batmania. Things begin to fall off the rails after an unscheduled toilet stop however, and the tour descends into chaos from that point on.

The tour is a lot of fun and the bus - although not quite what is shown in the video - is comfortable and just like all bus tours, nobody can see anything because you are either on the wrong side of the bus, or the view is obscured (by this little thing called night in this case).

It is the journey of the tour staff which become the point of interest in the Bus Tour. The ideas are strong and funny. Perhaps my main concern is the very site line difficulties for tourists are true for the performance. I couldn't see much more than glimpses of what was happening.

I got the gist of it, and I saw enough to understand and laugh, but I felt disconnected for much of the end of the tour. Having said that, I was comfortable and warm and quite enjoyed hearing the random laughter around the bus as people each saw snippets of different moments in the show. Perhaps this is the anti-theatre aesthetic the company are striving for?

I also think they could tighten up the ideas. There were longish gaps between each step in the process and they could be filled with more suggestive material such as when the air-conditioning was broached.

The Bus Tour starts on Fitzroy street but ends at the Expo in Theatre Works just in time for the big finale. Everything about the project is tongue in cheek and fabulous with just enough political and social barbs to make us feel content.

Go and visit Batmania. It is worth it. You can take in the accessible Expo or go on the Bus Tour. Either way you are going to end this unique experience laughing. In fact - do both!

3.5 Stars

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