Men of Steel
29/04/2008 - 04/05/2008
WHERE IT’S ACCEPTABLE TO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD
Direct from London’s Soho Theatre, after smash-hit seasons in Beijing, Hong-Kong and Edinburgh, the runaway cult hit of the Australian festival circuit; Men of Steel make their New Zealand debut.
Heating up the Nickelodeon Kids Comedy Season, Men Of Steel have arrived to smash the Festival with a fridge full of food and a superstore of kitchen utensils.
Men Of Steel features three mad chefs animating everything from an electric pan to a tin of dog food in a puppet extravaganza of epic (yet domestic) proportions. In 2006, the show took out the Festival Directors Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Since then, Men Of Steel have catered and sated audiences throughout the world; garnering rave reviews wherever they’ve performed.
Men Of Steel follows two gibberish talking cookie cutters in a journey across worlds of culinary delight. There are three episodes including a creation myth that fuses Adam and Eve with Evolution, a romantic (I doubt it) outing to the movies and, finally, a cataclysmic visit to the woods. Cartoon violence, physical comedy and mess (lots and lots of mess) ensue.
In 2007, Men of Steel debuted internationally in the prestigious Assembly Rooms of the Edinburgh Fringe, then followed onto Dublin Fringe, Hong Kong Fringe Club, and finished the year with a season at SOHO Theatre, London, where they were voted one of Time Out’s Top Shows for Kids in 2007.
Featuring Australia’s foremost young puppeteers Hamish Fletcher, Tamara Rewse and Sam Routledge, with an explosive soundtrack designed by Aaron Cuthbert and Jared Lewis, the Men of Steel are a shining example of the burgeoning independent puppetry scene in Melbourne. Known for their extraordinary manipulation skills combined with a vicious sense of humour, this is object theatre at its inventive best.
‘Anarchic, messy & highly inventive’ – THE STAGE, UK
‘For full-bellied laughter, I urge you to take someone, everyone, or anyone to see Men of Steel. Funny and hugely skilful.’ – NEW STATESMAN, UK
‘Puppetry at its most ingenious and disarming… Fabulously imaginative’ «««««
– THE AGE, MELBOURNE
Dates: April 29th – May 4th,11am & May 3rd,5:30pm
Venue: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Tickets: Adults $20, Children $15 (service fees may apply)
Bookings: TICKETEK – 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 5385)
Biscuit cutters climb the food chain
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 30th Apr 2008
If you are looking for a Comedy Festival show to expand your kids’ experience of live theatre by questioning their sensibilities and logic, then go to Men Of Steel. It’s not pretty and it’s not subtle, but it is pleasingly different and wonderfully messy.
Toe-tapping pre-show music inspires a dance from 4-year-old Ella, who is in the mood for fun. She’s noticed the plastic on the floor and marvels when the front row are given plastic jackets. She, like all kids in the room, is charged with eager anticipation. Let the chaos begin, please.
With a patriotic blast of INXS, enter a committed trio of Australian puppeteers, Hamish Fletcher, Tamara Rewse and Sam Routledge, dressed as serious chefs, who are only too willing to oblige.
They make a strong entrance and take their positions behind what will become the bench of mess. Throughout the next 45 minutes, speaking entirely in gibberish, their teamwork and timing is commendable (as is their sound operator’s).
However, by the end of their first scene, its clear this culinary anarchy is not your usual kid’s comedy show, neither is it to everyone’s taste on opening morning. Younger kids looked wide-eyed and asked their adults what was going on, while older kids, especially the boys in the audience, embraced the madness and cheered.
Scene one is a fast moving calorific battle full of yelling, screaming, chaos and flying food. Too fast for some kids (and adults) to follow. In a far away world, a lettuce explodes; biscuit cutters (the men of steel) land; pots, pans and kitchen utensils become flying machines; a baby "MOS" is born and overcomes an attack from a giant can of dog food; grapes are mushed into magic-potion to make you strong (Asterix inspired?); a lamb chop is stabbed and killed (scary moment with no redeeming features from Ella’s point of view); and a real ginger bread man is converted into a MOS, as an Australian flag is planted firmly on the bench of mess.
The MOS have taken over and are at the top of the food chain. They celebrate by handing out fresh fruit and deserve a medal for inspiring enthusiastic pleading from kids, normally seen at lolly-scrambles. A nice coda to the opening.
Scene two involves just as much mess by the end, yet on the whole, is less frantic. With more structure, the kids around me, who were confused, are now totally engaged. A pot is slowly enticed on to an element, and the inevitable fate of a bag of popcorn, is brilliantly executed. After the compulsory tomato sauce splatter moment, our cookie cutters head to the ‘cinema’ and meet sugary substances. The nasty, loud "oonst-oonst" dancing junk food are portrayed as airheads – food with no substance. Again, nicely done.
The final scene is a little disjointed. We start with a forest of broccoli, head to the land of the giants, cookie-cutter style, where the manic energy of the opening returns, then end with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday, in gibberish.
While there’s an anarchy to this show which bewildered some, what I wholeheartedly love about MOS’ messy recipe is the fact that the list of ingredients are all totally available for inspired kids to try themselves: imagination, food, music and metal stuff from the kitchen. For a generation of kids who increasingly sit passively in front of a screen, waiting to be fed manufactured entertainment, much of which is sugar-coated, neat, tidy and generic, this contrasts as 100% mind-expanding, sometimes challenging, pure back-to-basics-home-grown shambolic entertainment.
A more tangible aspect of Men of Steel is their use of iconic tunes with an instant recognition factor for the adults. The Ride of the Valkyries, Thus Spake Zarathustra (yes again! see Milk review), The Theme from Jaws, Chariots of Fire, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, each accompany food action at just the right moment, to great effect.
Story-wise, there is a vague theme of healthy fruit and veges prevailing over vacuous junk food that emerges. However, like the choice of music, adults rather than kids pick it up. On the whole, MOS seems to be about biscuit cutters climbing the food chain, and conquering all in their way. For what and why, I’m not quite sure, but fun, mess and mayhem ensued in the journey and for many in the audience that was entertainment enough.
Even though The Age (Melbourne review) describes MOS as a show that "appeals to (and is appropriate for) all ages", (hence taking 4 year old Ella), I disagree, due to the number of puzzled younger faces. I rang Ticketek to check what they were saying to ticket buyers and to the credit of the Festival’s producers, (though there is nothing on the festival website), Ticketek’s line is "recommended age 6 to 12." Concur.
Quotes from boys and girls in the audience (aged 4 to 12) include "that was weird"; "it was funny"; "I liked it, and it was fun"; "I like the bit when they made the big ginger bread men" and "Those three made a big mess".
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