The Epic | The Blue RoomPhotos – Jamie Breen

Two storytellers lead a tour through epic tales across time and cultures.

Scott Sandwich and Finn O’Branagáin are upfront about their credentials as actors – they do not act – and about their performance – it is not a play. Being a short run at The Blue Room Theatre, this does not phase the audience but serves to pique interest in just what will be presented over the next 70 minutes. The answer – a fantastic collection of stories from around the world, delivered by two storytellers passionate about epic tales and keen and bright-eyed in their enthusiastic sharing of various characters and narratives.

Alternating as lead storytellers, or working with each other as a Greek chorus, Sandwich and O’Branagáin have a lovely rapport between stories that sees O’Branagáin teasing Sandwich about his stage name and Sandwich eliciting eye rolls from O’Branagáin as he builds up to an enthusiastic explanation of why a movie series about cars and bodybuilders is truly a modern epic. O’Branagáin is particularly engaging in her maybe-a-Wendigo tale, with thought-provoking historical analysis afterwards. Sandwich may have been most visibly excited during his analysis of The Fast and The Furious movies, but is amazing in his rendition of the Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala. With barely a pause for breath, he delivers a saga rich in interrelated characters, random details and actions with seemingly unrelated consequences to a modern, Western experience.

The mentoring influences of Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Andrea Gibbs are evident, with the hyperenergetic physical engagement of Fowler working well with Gibbs’ trademark disarming personal candour. Even these techniques fail to redeem the closing narrative of settler history in Australia which, jointly told, is the weakest part of the performance featuring classic tales including Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Japanese creation myths and Finn McCool. The narrators seem self-conscious in their aw shucks, faux naïve presentation of various points in white Australian treatment of Aboriginal people and migrants, as well as the actions of various political figures, contrasting poorly with the energy and enthusiasm that accompanies even the most surreal moments of the preceding tales.

Set designer Desmond Tan’s simple stage set of mountains, constructed on the floor and painted along the wall, provides a series of visual cues to assist in both narratives and discussion about the stories as they are presented. Joe Lui’s lighting works with the sky behind the mountains to set times of day and atmosphere for stories and events within the stories. Composer Tom Hogan’s musical score complements the actions described in the pieces as well as enhancing atmosphere.

The Epic is epic not only in the scope within each story, not only in the infectious enthusiasm brought to the stage by each performer, but also in the depth and breadth of the knowledge about how these tales fit into human and cultural experiences, linked with each other and subsequent characters and storylines. Scott Sandwich and Finn O’Branagáin remind us that, in the days before reality television, game shows and online gaming, humans developed awesome story telling that still inspires today.

The Blue Room Theatre, Finn O’Branagáin and Scott Sandwich present
The Epic
Finn O’Branagáin & Scott Sandwich

Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | 53 James Street, Northbridge WA
Dates: 8 – 13 June 2015
Tickets: $15 – $25

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