Theatre Review: Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play

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Brent Hill. Photo credit: Tony Lewis

What: Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play

Where: Space Theatre

When: Until May 13th

How Much: Adult $74, Concession $64, Under 30 $33, Primary/Secondary Student $29

In a time when The Simpsons’ prediction of a Donald Trump presidency has come true, and dystopian apocalypses feel a little too close to home, Mr Burns is the play we truly need and deserve.

We are sure, that like us, you have been captured by the marketing of the show featuring a creepily realistic, yet magnificent, image of Mr Burns on the posters. Between that image and the concept of The Simpsons-meets-the-apocalypse, we were intrigued. That is where it starts: a fairly ordinary, albeit nervous, group of people drinking beer, and sitting around a campfire, recounting the ‘Cape Feare’ episode of The Simpsons. It feels normal, like something we would do while camping, but slowly, it is revealed that these people are a small group of survivors in a nuclear fallout.

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Jacqy Phillips. Photo credit: Tony Lewis

The play started a little slow, but picked up speed by the end of the Act One. The narrative skips seven years to the future. In a world that is still struggling after the meltdown, the group of friends are one of several theatre troupes who specialise in performing episodes of The Simpsons, complete with ad breaks and acapella renditions of Top 40 tracks from their old lives. By the interval, we were riveted and really wanted to know more about the characters, their backstories, and the world they inhabited.

Act Three, however, completely sidesteps lingering plot lines and instead plunges you into a surreal retelling of a Simpsons classic, set seventy five years later. It was creepy, kind of cult-ish at first (not like the Stonecutters), but the underlying theme of myth grew and grew, eventually unleashing in beautiful, unsettling musical glory. In this world, The Simpsons is no longer something your grandfather made you turn off so he could watch the news. It has taken on an almost religious dimension, along with Eminem and Gilbert and Sullivan songs. It is now a mythic beast and is all that is left of life before the fallout. This act was definitely stronger production-wise, the costuming and Mitchell Butel’s Mr Burns were both highlights, but it lacked the narrative depth that made the first two acts so strong.

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Esther Hannaford. Photo credit: Tony Lewis

We really like the idea that people sitting around a campfire sharing pop culture references could one day evolve into a production about life and death, love and hate. We especially like the idea that something like The Simpsons could be the only remaining cultural artefact from this era that survives the apocalypse. But really, that’s how all stories must have started, kernels of conversation that grew and changed until a myth emerges at the other end.

4 out of 5 stars

–  Kate Riggs and Natalie Carfora

Mr Burns is showing at the Space Theatre until the 13th of May. The State Theatre Company offers $33 tickets as a part of their Under 30s program, what are you waiting for?

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