Trojans runs at PACT in Erskineville from November 14-22 2014 as part of the Tiny Stadiums Festival.
Trojans by Project Mess at PACT Sydney is not the greatest piece of theatre you’re ever going to see. It’s probably not in the top twenty either. But it is a lot of fun: and fun, as far as I’m concerned, is a good enough reason to see anything.
The conceit behind Trojans is one drawn from Mexican telenovela (essentially soap operas, generally of the most hyperbolic kind). The story moves so fast and the actors are required to film so many pages of script in a day that it isn’t possible for the actors to learn their lines, so dialogue is fed to them via radio as they tape. One take, one chance: that’s it. In Trojans, the lines are delivered to actors via radio and they deliver them as we watch, the action happening in real time against a green screen.
I love this idea. Like, I LOVE IT. The idea of genre fiction and maligned popular artforms – which most definitely includes telenovela and soap opera – on the stage is one that appeals to me greatly, so when I heard about Trojans, I pretty much hallooed HELL YES to the reverberate hills. Trojans, sadly, does not make the most of this conceit – at least not in the episode I saw, which was the episode performed on November 14, written by Annalise Constable. Instead, it delivers a fairly staid episode of a knockoff Cheers: a kind of sitcom set in a bar where two mental patients converse about pretty much nothing.
It’s not without its charms. Barman Brett (Brett Johnson) is a pretty entertaining fixture, and there are a couple of amusing exchanges. But telenovela is so big, so dramatic, so ridiculous and spectacular, that I wanted something more – something soapier. The program notes state that Project Mess visualise Trojans “as more of a sitcom than a soapie”, so I guess the Cheers-esque vibe suits that, but… why give up a golden opportunity to do telenovela on stage and make it awesome, especially when you’re adopting the conceits of its delivery? The recent success of Jane The Virgin shows that telenovela can be brought and brought well to a mainstream audience, even if the soap opera is the most maligned of televisual forms. I wish Project Mess hadn’t backed away from the spectacularised form of the telenovela and opted for the more acceptable sitcom. I feel the former would have made better theatre.
That said, even though the script on the night I saw Trojans was pretty ordinary, the evening is a great deal of fun. Interspersed with ad breaks and audience engagement, it’s definitely an enjoyable night out at the theatre. Every night features a new writer, and I’m coming back next week to see what another episode of the show has to offer. It’s a short night – the show clocks in at only an hour – and while it might not necessarily be great theatre, it is very entertaining.