SHE delivers plenty of laughs in camp style
By Brianna Turner
Trepan Theatre’s comedic adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel, heralded as the most influential and best-selling novel that nobody has ever heard of, is easily one of the funniest productions you’ll have seen this year. SHE provides a barrage of often campy humour, reminiscent of Monty Python, which at many points in the production hardly leaves the audience with a chance to regain their breath before setting them to laughing again.
One of the most commendable features of SHE is how adroitly the four-person cast, composed of Aaron Coates, Cheryl Hutton, Tammy Roberts, and Christ Enright, managed to convey the sense of a much larger cast and make exquisite use of a fairly minimalistic set. SHE is by-and-large an artfully executed production in these respects, and allowed the audience to become wholly swept up in the action.
The story is one that clearly leant itself to comedic interpretation well with its highly clichéd elements of the classic adventure story, and the traditional formula of the catalyst, the quest, and the conflict, all concluded by the journey homewards. Beginning with a young boy, Leo Vincey, and a mysterious trunk left in the care of the boy’s ward, Horace Holly, the story begins when Vincey comes of age and is granted possession of the trunk. So begins a journey to Africa under the directions of a tablet left to Vincey by his deceased father, whereupon Holly, Vincey, and Holly’s manservant Job encounter a primitive tribal society led by a queen identified as “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” Mayhem ensues, the narrative of a love lost emerges, and the secret to eternal life lies within the grasp of our bold explorers. You know, the usual.
Trepan had marked success in tailoring this tale to meet the demands of the stage as well as infusing it with their special brand of intrepid playfulness. Take Ayesha, or “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” the millennia-old semi-deity of the savage population encountered by protagonist Horace Holly and his band of fellow explorers. In an often charming and occasionally obnoxious caricature of beautiful-woman-gone-mad-with-power, Cheryl Hutton effectively encompasses the commanding presence expected of a goddess-like figure while also making adept use of the comical merits of gratuitous breast-juggling.
Bar a singular ungainly musical number, SHE is an amusing, captivating and satisfying piece of theatre that will keep you laughing.
SHE is running at Pumphouse Theatres until June 25.