Mudfest 2011 (Two of a Kind): “24 Hour Musical” by Matilda Dixon-Smith

Posted on August 25, 2011

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When I informed a colleague at work that I would spend my Sunday evening reviewing a 24 Hour Musical (a musical written, rehearsed and performed in 24 hours), she rather aptly pointed out “Well, at least it’ll be interesting”.

Interesting, indeed, is exactly what it was. 24 Hour Musical was an appropriately ramshackle affair. The stage at Union Theatre was haphazardly set up with podium and chairs in rows on one side of the stage, and a brightly-dressed bedroom on the other. The cast was all-female, and the band rocked it coolly at the back (setting the mood of ‘improvisational skill’ at the start with a jazzy jamming overture). The story was of four girls in their final year at a Catholic school in the 1960s. I am a little fuzzy on where exactly we were, since some of the girls had Australian accents, and others American. Starry-eyed Helmet spirals out of control when she discovers she is pregnant, and hasn’t studied for her up-coming exams. Muddy and Kaye (one a singer/fake soccer player, the other a recreational drug user and the story’s narrator) explore their sexuality by exploring, er, each other. The final performer (who’s character name escapes me), is an sharp, hard-working black girl who struggles against gender and civil oppression to fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor. There was also the sober but wicked head teacher Sister Mary Catherine.

The music was the most impressive part of the show. A number of songs, similar in style yet each conveying the mood and serving to propel a plot or deepen the audience’s understanding of a character, were performed with great fervour. I do wish one of the actors (the one playing the doctor girl) had been less obvious about reading her lyrics off a prop textbook she carried. While I understand the necessity of having the lyric (in case you forget words written only 24 hours ago) it was a little distracting to see her always looking down. My favourite song was “Wouldn’t It Be Grand” a sweet love song first performed by Muddy and Donna (Muddy’s pink trench coat-wearing lover), then reprised by Muddy and Kaye at the end. The costumes were bright and exciting, the girls looked like a kind of acid trip version of a 60s Catholic school girl. Their voices were all quite fine (with a rocky vibe) and the acting was also good. These characters had a lot to deal with, and that was clearly conveyed by the four leads.

Herein lies the big problem with this experiment. The musical was short, only 40 minutes long, and those minutes were packed to bursting with women’s rights, civil rights, (implied) lapsed Catholicism, adolescence, abortion, gay rights and suicide. It was a little too much for one audience to handle. These important issues need to be dealt with using more time and a little less insensitivity (I found the jokes about abortion to be in pretty poor taste). Content over clarity is never a good call, especially in a work based around the practice of improvisation. However, despite this minor misstep, I enjoyed seeing the 24 Hour Musical experiment pan out. I really must commend the writing/directing/performing team (unfortunately uncredited on the Mudfest site) for their valiancy and their good sense of fun. It was certainly infectious in the theatre during their wild performance.

Matilda Dixon-Smith is You’re Dripping Egg’s Editor-in-chief and co-creator. For more of Matilda’s articles about student theatre, check out The Musical of Musicals: The Musical and Showtunes, Intruige, Romance and Murrrrrder: UMMTA’s “Curtains”.

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