A handsome man introduces himself as Samuel. He is to be our narrator and guide into the adventures of Elizabeth Gulliver; journalist, explorer and occasional impersonator. Samuel’s charm is set against a backdrop of books in cubes – there are several Andy McNab novels and a Jackie Collins – it feels like anything could happen.
Gulliver’s Travels at the Adelaide Fringe
Then, anything and everything does. This stage version of Gulliver’s Travels is based on the Jonathan Swift novel of the same name, but it’s lighter on the satire and heavier on the bizarre. The Familia de la Noche team who adapted and devised the show, have taken the already incongruous story, and flipped it upside down, inside out and added a whole bunch of nuttiness.
Becca Cox is the gutsy protagonist who seems unperturbed by the extreme situations she consistently finds herself in. She charms us with her indomitable spirit and adventurous outlook. Kiell Smith-Bynoe is terrific as our narrator and then a host of fun, funny and peculiar characters, whose varying accents are consistent and convincing. The Lilliput and Dickensian scenes are highlights – here the duo shine – comic timing, tight scripting and subtle humour all work well.
True to the original, there is very little in the way of foreshadowing, but in the stage version, this leaves the audience very much adrift; uncertain of where we are going, or knowing if we have yet reached our destination. Cox, the only constant in the production, holds the rudder admirably until the bitter end.
Gulliver’s Travels utilises film, various types of puppetry and small and large scaled characters and props to tell of the explorations. The success is mixed. Some of the projections are unclear, and some of the characters remain when the scene has moved to the next location, making for confusing viewing. The shadow puppetry is excellent, but set back inside the cubes, is obscured for some viewers.
Unfortunately, this particular performance suffers from props timing issues, mistimed audio cues, a disastrously performing set that looks ready to fall apart, and a couple of wardrobe malfunctions. The distractions come at a cost. Despite this, the cast does a stellar job and we’re sure these technicalities will be ironed out for future shows.
The surprise twist ending we didn’t see coming makes this play one of the only adaptations where we prefer the ending to the original version. Gulliver’s Travels is a fun romp led by a talented cast that will leave you and your yahoos filled with wonder.
Gulliver’s Travels is at Noel Lothian Hall, Adelaide Botanic Gardens as part of the Adelaide Fringe until March 3