‘The Mummy Rises’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 16, 2016

‘The Mummy Rises’ was penned between 2013 and 2015 by Murdoch playwright, Tim Brain and is the second production in ‘The Gothics’ series. Like the blood-chilling ‘Dracula’, because of the violence, horror and adult themes, this too is MA15+ rated. Having said that, this World Premiere is a comedy thriller and was commissioned specifically for this trilogy.

‘Nexus Theatre’, ‘Murdoch Theatre Company’ and ‘From The Hip Productions’ are presenting this fun-filled production at the Nexus Theatre, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch – near car park 3. The series has a crew of over 40, and combined casts of over 30, promising us something that Perth has never yet experienced.

After a warm welcome from Front of House, Rachel Doulton, the one and a half hour performances commence at 7.30 each evening until 16th July, with one matinée at 2.00 pm on Saturday 16th July.

 

The scene is Saqqara, the City of the Dead in Egypt. The year, 1890. The stage is divided into the Waldren’s home and the tomb of Artek Bey. An inscribed, limestone sarcophagus leans against a wall. The rear wall of the cavernous tomb is covered in hieroglyphics.

Later the stage becomes the storeroom at the British Museum. Another triumph from production designer, Allison Snell and her construction and artwork team, John King, Katie Southwell, Andrew David and Sam Knox. There was clever use of the smoke machines, such as when the coffin was opened, and there were cobwebs everywhere.

The period costumes were stunning, and beautifully tailored by Alli Snell, Sophie Braham and Bella Doyle. The Mummy was not simply wrapped in crêpe bandages, but had tassels and rotting material on him too.

The stage management was slick, thanks to Keaton Howe and his assistant Mike Casas.

 

       It is Egypt 1890, and we hear the sounds of the explorers hacking through the final layer of stone, before entering the tomb of Grand Vizier, Artek Bey. The leader of the British expedition, John Waldren (Tim Brain) and his labourers, Alfie (Andrew David) and Charlie (Tay Broadley) are first into the cavernous tomb.

      Then Lord Preston (Dean Lovatt) demands that they open the sarcophagus. The leader’s daughter, Claire Waldren (Christie Strauss) is an expert on hieroglyphic, so warns them that on opening the coffin a curse will result on all of those invaders. The casket lid is prized open and the bandaged Mummy, Artek Bey (Andrew Dawson) appears to move. There is a rapid exit from the grave, but poor Charlie was a little too slow in leaving.

       Back in the Waldren home, Claire is saying ‘Goodbye’ to Lady Harriet Preston (Anna Weir) who is being treated abominably by her husband. Young Alfie calls around, and we find that there is romance in the air.

       All of the treasures are shipped back to the British Museum in London, where we meet the mad librarians, Miss Dalrymple (Kate Willoughby) and Cora (Abbey McCaughan) trying to catalogue the new items. As they work, the lights flicker and the attractive Priestess, Abrar Ali (Bella Doyle) seems to appear from nowhere. Uttering ancient texts, she commands Artek Bey to come back to life.

      Will her commands work? Who will die? Will the handsome policeman (Andrew Dawson) discover what is going on?

 

This adroit, original comedy thriller was directed by Tim Brain, with movement advice from Tym Sanders. On opening night, there were a few nerves and it took a little while for the play to gather pace and for the actors to project their voices; but by the second Act everyone was tuned-in and the show moved up a few gears. Tim is exceptionally talented in numerous theatrical fields, sound, music, directing etc., but to tackle all of these – and several more – in one play I think might have been a touch too much. Perhaps a separate director could have taken this masterful play to yet another level. It must be said that this is a very clever and brave production, with Tim breaking a huge amount of new ground in bringing it to the stage. So much talent, well done.

The soundscape of creepy noises and bodies being broken was created by Tim Brain and operated by Kiah Van Vlijmen. Tim also composed the musical backing that varied from the double bass ‘breathing’, violas scraping to ethereal organ music – even a burst of bagpipes crept into the score. Tim played the various instruments and was ‘accompanied’ by legends Anne Dudley, Jaz Coleman, Erik Satie and the Warner Music Group.

Scott McArdle’s ingenious, complex and highly atmospheric lighting design was set by Katie Southwell, Sarah Bond and Bella Doyle; being operated by Katrina Johnson. The imaginative makeup and hair designs were supervised by Leah Toyne and Sophie Braham.

The main cast members brought depth to the serious drama, with episodes that made the audience wince on occasions – well done. However, the director was a brave man in deciding to mix humour with the creepy violence, an idea that to succeed, takes special acting skills; but the eccentric librarians (Willoughby and McCaughan) captured their brief and chalked up another success for the show.

A must see quality event, but be quick.