Rama Nicholas’ combination of writing and performance skill makes her a top exponent of the Fringe one-person show format. Her past offerings After Ever After and Death Rides a Horse did the rounds of Fringe and Comedy Festivals, and in 2014 she was a Golden Gibbo Award nominee and Moosehead Award recipient.
Her new show, Mary Weather’s Monsters is a somewhat gothic story of a monster hunter in 1890’s London, with Nicholas playing a range of humans … and other creatures … in a dark story with amusing moments. But be warned, Nicholas sometimes uses language that might be a little more beastly than polite company would allow.
Mary Weather is London’s most successful monster hunter. She claims bigger balls than all of the men at the Hunter’s Club. But it’s hard to have success in this game without making some enemies.
The show opens with Mary facing charges in a London court. We travel back in time to see how she got here. As the tale evolves, Nicholas slips easily from an English dandy’s sneer worthy of Alan Rickman, to a Tinkerbell-esque girlishness, to the gruffness of a fearsome Luga Beast. So assured was the performance that Nicholas wasn’t even put off by the evils of latecomers or technical glitches.
A gothic tale often has a secret so terrible that it is both unspeakable and difficult to bear. Through a nifty plot device, Mary and a beast that hunts her get to see each other’s secrets. These revelations force us to ask: what makes a hero or a monster? Or, what value do we place on the lives of those who are different from us? These are timely questions in an era where ignorance and fear of the unknown drives much public comment.
This is all handled with a light touch, and the piece is still definitely a comedy. Fans of Nicholas’ past efforts will find we still get some musical numbers, some kooky ideas (I liked the dabbling in Steam Punk) and a good smattering of laughs in a well-written tale. The production’s attention to detail is similarly impressive, from the frills on Nicholas’ costume to the pallor of her makeup.
Dr Frankenstein himself couldn’t stitch together a more dreadfully stylish creature. With only one week left until Melbourne Fringe 2015 enters the long goodnight, there’s a lot at stake. Overcome your fear of the dark and seek an audience with Mary Weather’s Monsters.
Melbourne Fringe: Mary Weather’s Monsters
Meeting Room – North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 24 September 2015
Season continues to 3 October 2015
For more information, visit: www.ramanicholas.com.au for details.
Image: Rama Nicholas in Mary Weather’s Monsters
Review: Jason Whyte