Jonathan Roxmouth played in the Lloyd Webber classic, Phantom of the Opera. In fact he was the Phantom, and won awards for the role. Now that we have gotten that out of the way let’s get to his latest project: Topsy Turvy. It’s totally off the wall crazy!
The one man show takes a rather unique view of the British duo responsible for 14 comic operas at the end of the 19th century: Gilbert and Sullivan.
The stage at the Theatre on the Bay is set up as a classic opera house complete with gold shell-shaped lights on the foot of the stage. In the centre of the stage is a magic trunk with a million little drawers holding a million little props. It’s beyond me how Roxmouth remembers where everything is. With no obvious pattern he opens the drawers at random to reveal the even more random props within. The only constant element in the show is Roxmouth’s voice. He plays around with his range, going from his rich baritone to a soft girly squeal in a matter of two songs.
The first half can only be described as a highly organised chaos. Through a whirlwind of props and costume changes Roxmouth guides the audience through Gilbert and Sullivan’s work in an utterly unpretentious manner. In fact, he is so relaxed he doesn’t bother to change out of his pyjama pants till the second half.
After the interval the audience receives a master class in writing a Gilbert and Sullivan style production. And like most classes it drags just that little longer than it should do. Throughout the production however the age-old material is made current by Roxmouth’s enthusiasm, humour and the peppering of references to current affairs. The ruling party had a whole song dedicated to them while the “Spear of the Nation” incident got a passing mention only caught by a few. Roxmouth is really very funny. The audience could not get enough. In fact I have never seen an audience this eager to participate in a show.
Topsy Turvy creates a space that defies logic and everything sensible. It is the thinking person’s mindless entertainment.
Jana van Heerden