Aplombusrhombus blew Fringe audiences away this past summer with their hilarious, yet heartbreaking pantomime show Cardinal and now dynamic duo Madeleine Hall and Mitchell Rose are here at the Fresh Meat Theatre Festival presenting their creepy comedy “Oh No!” said the parrot. Creating a universe in which humor and horror exist on the same spectrum, this piece exists in a certain state of unreality that is guaranteed to keep you entertained. I hope this company continues to produce work in the future because the creativity they are putting out is really worth noting.
The plot description is so wonderfully Seussical that it would be remiss of me not to include it: “”Hello room. Hello air. Hello girl! Oh look a chair! Hello cage. Hello TV. Hello creepy pink Airbnb. Hello laughter. Hello fun. Hello parrot whispering, “RUN!” Knock knock! HAHAha…oh no…” Albeit, it makes much more sense if you’ve see the piece but nonetheless this is actually the perfect summary. Aplombusrhombus takes a seemingly mundane event, like arriving at your Airbnb location for the first time, and transforms it into a spooky narrative where themes of violence and menace underlie the comedy.
Competing with S.S. Lightbulb for the title of “the show with the most set pieces”, “Oh No!” said the parrot (under the direction of Rose) has a very cohesive design concept that makes optimal use of the relatively humble performance space. The many set pieces that adorn the stage are all painted a sort of not-quite-baby pink colour- a kind of shade you’d probably see in a hospital or medical clinic. The only thing that isn’t pink is a large object covered by an equally large grey sheet which we easily assume to be a birdcage (given the title of the show). It can feel a bit crowded at times with so many pieces on such a small space and, from where I was sitting, the placement of the television downstage centre(ish) often blocked Hall in a way that I felt like sometimes I wasn’t seeing the full physicality in her performance. Nothing that can’t be solved, however, by performing in a more traditional space.
Speaking of Hall, her overall performance is lovely. The wide variety of facial expressions that she produces is very funny, particularly in a mostly non-verbal piece where she is mostly reacting to her new surroundings. The moment where she comes across the letter left by the Host, for example, is such a testament to her being continually and actively present on stage as a performer.
In a similar vein, Rose (despite being covered up for the majority of the show) gives an excellent demonstration of creating presence on stage. His use of stillness and only slight movements while under the sheet creates an energy that’s difficult to keep your eye off of as a spectator (not to mention that’s the one object the Girl is told not to touch). When the big reveal is finally made towards the end of the piece, the absurdity of Rose’s costume combined with the drastic shift in theatrical style results in a moment of great hilarity.
The use of technical elements, particularly sound, in this show is also notable. Again, I’d like to reference this moment where Hall is reading the letter left by the Host which has been audio-recorded for the audience to hear. The voice-acting here is really excellent with a great deal of personality which successfully transforms the letter from prop to character. The follow-up with the ‘post-script’ is also a hilarious little section that highlights the on stage relationship between the performer and the sound. Furthermore, the bits with the radio are also quite good especially when it comes to establishing the spook factor and the shout out (or is it a throwback?) to the Cardinal score is quite clever.
“Oh No!” said the parrot is certainly one of the more polished pieces coming out of this year’s Fresh Meat festival. It’s a show with a fresh perspective in both its narrative style and its design aesthetics. It’s reflective of the current generation without ever being too on the nose about it and, finally, it showcases some great performances. Keep your eyes on company Aplombusrhombus, you won’t want to miss them in the future.