REVIEW: Hey! Yeah! It’s Molly’s Travelling Worm Show

Yes – you read that correctly…

By Tania Herbert

Playschool on acid is probably the best way I can think of to describe Hey! Yeah! It’s Molly’s Travelling Worm Show. The plot is perhaps best explaineded by the show’s theme song: “Come with us on a s@#t tourist journey, Come with us, it’s ironic and sad”.

We find Molly (Melita Rowston) holed up in a shoddy country motel in the tiny town of Korumburra, where she has quit her corporate executive job in a quest to recapture a moment of joy from the late 70s, where a giant pink worm puppet explicably spawned a spate of fairly ordinary tourist attractions. Molly arrives with few leads, but a surreal crew of sidekicks, led by kidnapped once-famous Aussie puppets from long-dead TV shows. Fortunately for Molly, her victims quickly develop a case of Stockholm Syndrome, becoming willing participants in tracking down the giant pink worm of Molly’s childhood.

Worm Show

As a child of the (early) 80s, there are multitudes of flashback moments to one the lamer decades in Australian history, and we are taken back to the days of strawberry Big M’s, school excursions to Sovereign Hill, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Shirl’s Neighbourhood, and to a time when icons were solid objects, not just updates on Facebook.

This is a brave piece of theatre in terms of typing together multiple elements, and in this the show well and truly succeeds, with a range of multimedia, puppetry and stacks of props – all of which are negotiated flawlessly. Puppets are masterfully “wrangled” by Benito Di Fonzo, and Narda Shanley plays a great sidekick and range of comic Aussie stereotypes.

Unfortunately however, for me the character of Molly was not my favourite part of the show. The hyperbolic characterisation did not draw me enough to Molly’s story, which made it difficult to be as invested in the outcome. The script had a number of clever elements and great one-liners, I would have been interested to see what another actor could have done with the same material, as perhaps this is one of these moments where the writer is a little too close to the material, perhaps to the detriment of comic timing and being on the right side of the line between comical and just over the top.

For absurdist theatre to work, there does need to be a sense of depth and sophistication underneath, which I felt that “Worm Show” lacked. I am sure that there is an audience for this type of bawdy comedy, but I’m not sure that the Malthouse is quite the right location for the show. The cast and crew definitely went all out with the show – there are giant worm decorations, souvenirs for purchase, and the cast has clearly been rehearsing the hell out of the thing. Despite what I found to be shortcomings, the Worm Show was overall entertaining, and the concluding pay-off was surprisingly touching. At risk of throwing out a spoiler, the giant pink worm is also pretty cool. I certainly left the theatre with a smile on my face. A quizzical smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Tickets for Molly’s Travelling Worm Show via malthousetheatre.com.au/helium-2013/ and melitarowston.com

13th – 24th August 2013
Tue – Fri at 8pm
Sat 3pm & 8pm

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