Theatre Review: Thomus at the Basement Theatre

By Janet McAllister

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Amelia Reynolds and Milo Cawthorne star in Thomus.
Amelia Reynolds and Milo Cawthorne star in Thomus.

This surprising show - by new writer/director Ash Jones - is bonkers in the most wonderful way.

First, it is set in today's Auckland yet written almost entirely in iambic pentameter, with a large load of rhyming couplets thrown in. The anachronism matching contemporary language and poetic structure works, sometimes for cheap laughs ("...I was most unaware/ of your accumulated glut of kitchenware") and sometimes for self-referential amusement. People talk of "waxy lyrical guidance" and, when questioned on vocab choice, they sneer "I spoke of 'sock' because I was rhyming, egg". Other dialogue is earthy in the extreme; the vulgar accessibility gives a new insight on what it might have been like attending the 16th century Globe.

Second, the play is more than just a Shakespeare pastiche, not because of any deep sub-text - there isn't any, not really - but due to its breath-taking genre mash-up. It starts off as a family drama, then seems set to become a high-school comedy, before turning into a full-blown suburban crime psycho-horror.

(I found it genuinely scary although I am, admittedly, a complete wuss.) Yet, in spite of the shifts, the tone always seems deliberate rather than confused or confusing. It's a difficult, unusual genre-matching feat, and the show pulls it off nicely. The programme mentions Jones' love of David Lynch; that sounds about right.

It's not perfect: Thomus' love interest - in spite of a good performance by Amelia Reynolds - is more of a convenient cypher than a character in her own right, and while Bruce Hopkins' villain George is fantastically creepy, it could be made clearer that the play itself doesn't share George's homophobia.

At an hour 45 minutes, it's a little long and it should have an interval. Andrew Foster's interesting eyes-on-stalks set supports surveillance themes which aren't entirely developed in the script. But the cast do an excellent job of delivering original wordplay. A clever, ridiculous, and enjoyable marvel.

What: Thomus
Where & when: Basement Theatre, Greys Ave; until September 10

- NZ Herald

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