A laugh a minute is no exaggeration in what can best be described as a theatre of the ridiculous.
The Mystery of Irma Vep is a satire of several theatrical, literary and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce and a unique take on the penny dreadful.
Director Elizma Badenhorst magnificently creates a “silent movie with words” which is larger than life and includes all the fantastical elements of 19th-century Gothic novels.
The cast of eight characters are played by only two actors – Jonathan Roxmouth and Weslee Swain Lauder – who swop characters and costumes no less than 35 times, sometimes in less than 15 seconds. The costume changes form such an integral part of the play that one can construe them as a ninth character.
The characters include a prudish strait-laced maid, Jane Twisden, who is fixatedly loyal to her former mistress of Mandacrest manor, Lady Irma Vep; Lady Enid, the current Lady of Mandacrest who is a former actress and not the sharpest tool in the shed; and eccentric Egyptologist Lord Edgar, who is the lord of the manor and who quite literally has his hands full with Pev Amri, an Egyptian mummy cum gyrating hyper-sexed exhibitionist princess who clearly has no body image hangups.
Badenhorst’s directing is never predictable and, with a surprise around every corner, is delightfully quirky and amusingly peculiar throughout the two-hour play.
Roxmouth (as Jane Twisden and Lord Edgar) is a true shape-shifter with mind-boggling transformations and superb characterisation. His technique is flawless and he is a master of accents.
Lauder (as Nicodemus, a somewhat mentally challenged groundsman, Lady Enid and Pev Amri) is simply hilarious. His wholly over-the-top personas are side-splittingly funny.
The intricate wardrobe design by Pierre du Plessis is jaw-dropping, especially considering the speed at which full costume changes (including wigs) take place.
The scenic design is by Nadine and Louis Minnaar is highly imaginative, yet remarkably user-friendly, considering the chaos it has to accommodate onstage and offstage.
The lighting design by Oliver Hauser is pure magic and the original musical score by Wessel Odendaal strikingly captures every nuance of the play.
This production is certainly worth conquering the cold and will leave you warm with delight.
* Bookings through Computicket.