A House of Cards

Excess Theatre @ Gluttony, February 24, 2011.

This debut Fringe production by The Splashes, a group of Adelaide law students whose only public description has them “bound together by liquor,” is one of those small, under the radar shows that ends up being an evening’s highlight, made even more enjoyable by the fact there were no preconceptions and few expectations about the show’s content or quality going in.

Its structure encompasses four short, separate comedy theatre pieces, linked only by the fact that each is based loosely on a different suite of cards and contain various characters of equal parts eccentricity, insanity, self obsession and alcoholism. As you can imagine, this makes for a fine mix indeed.

The four scenes, following in order of hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades, are full of nice touches. From Johnny, the stressed out hit man in “hearts” who listens to an iPod Blondie mix to calm his nerves when the job goes awry, to the perfect satirical treatment of both indie hipsters and the upper crust of Adelaide in “clubs,” the whole show has a feeling of being hip, local and with just the right amount of self conscious pretension and pop cultural awareness.

Which makes sense, considering that all cast members have been previously involved in the University of Adelaide’s Law School Revue, an annual comedy play held in September whose former participants have included Adelaide born and educated lawyer turned comedian Shaun Micallef. 

Perhaps one other thread besides alcohol that binds the show’s segments together is a recurring sense of the absurdities and miscommunications inherent in modern life. In the third segment, “diamonds,” we are shown a couple sitting at a cafe table, engaging in a long and winding conversation without ever actually noticing what the other person or those around them are saying. This provides opportunity for numerous random segue ways and non sequiturs, from drinks orders to metaphysical monologues and a great appearance by one increasingly confused and flustered waitress.

The well constructed and witty script is courtesy of Harry Black, who also wrote the majority of last year’s Law Revue production Barely Legal. For comedy theatre like this, performance and delivery are obviously central and none of the cast disappoint, playing with their characters and hamming it up with obvious relish. Ironically, for a play that deals with people struggling to connect and belong, there seems to be a camaraderie between these fellow students that gives the whole show an extra sense of fun and irreverence, which comes through particularly well in the chaotic, fourth wall busting final scene, “spades.” As Harry says, “we got drunk one night and thought let’s do a Fringe show, then someone actually paid the registration fee and we had to do it.” The decision has definitely paid off. 

There’s only three nights of this to enjoy, so get down to Excess Theatre @ Gluttony quick smart. At $10 a ticket, it’s about the price of a single Fringe beer, and starting at 6.30pm means you’ll still be able to head out afterwards to get smashed in the Garden! 

If you are unlucky enough to have missed out, there’s always this year’s Law Revue and, hopefully, some more Fringe shows from this talented group in the future.


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