A review from the first production earlier this year...
What Would the Doctor Do?
Feb. 21st, 2009 | 09:35 am
The play is WHO KNOWS?, a locally scripted and performed play about Doctor Who fandom, by Paul McIntyre. And it was BRILLIANT. I really enjoyed the story, based around a convention and featuring six members of the Tasmanian chapter of the Doctor Who fan club who are running said convention: President Colin (mostly offstage), the quintessential Who nerd who lives with his mother, talks in a funny voice and has the theme tune on his phone; our hero Russell Lambert (Matt Wilson), who turns 30 today, worries he has nothing in his life but his love for Doctor Who, and has so many relationship issues that he isn't prepared to tell anyone about his secret girlfriend; Sarah (Clare Gray), the organised one of the team, who is frustrated at Russell's fear at revealing their relationship, and determined to help him fix the rift with his estranged brother (who stole his fiancee three years ago); Ian (Roger Chevalier), the shambling older gent who is a shoulder for the young ones to cry on and constantly quotes old BBC TV shows; Frazer (Ben Paine) the obligatory gayboy, who dresses in full kilt for most of the day, has a crush on Russell, and basically acts like a bouncy anime character) and finally the mysterious founder of the Doctor Who Fan Club of Tasmania(Noreen La Motte), a wealthy patron who glories in the fact that she once had a walk on part in "The Underwater Menace" (third fish person from the right).
Added to this mix is Russell's estranged brother Peter (Andrew McNicol), a brash bully of a man who sneers at his brother's hobby and stands at the outsider who does not understand the language of the Doctor Who fans... and underneath that, there's a genuine hurt and a family history begging to be unwrapped. [the brother stole Russell's Tom Baker scarf and his fiancee, and I think we all know which was the greater hurt...] The story is fun and fast, and full of references to the old and new show, with a million quotes for the obsessive fan to spot. Some scenes are utterly glorious, the high point of the play being when Russell, Frazer and Peter are kidnapped and locked in a basement, and the two Who fans deal with this unlikely arrangement by asking each other what happened in "The Visitation" (including obligatory delay to discuss how much they hated Adric) while the token mundane among them has a meltdown about the fact that he doesn't understand a word they are saying - and meanwhile, Sarah is coming to rescue them through the air vents, wearing a Sara Kingdom costume...
The whole play was gloriously funny in a loving way. It was so nice to see a comedy about Doctor Who that didn't employ any of the bog standard parody jokes. The local Tasmanian jokes were enjoyable but I can totally see how the script could be used by people in other locations with only minor changes. There was some touching relationship stuff, lots of funny character stuff, and so very many layers of in jokes and references to the old and new series. In particular, we got to see a range of ways in which oldtime fans have incorporated elements of the new show into their fandom. And even a Matt Smith reference for extra relevance!
The performances were really enjoyable, particularly Matt Wilson playing Russell, who got to be funny, romantic, vulnerable, depressive, and in his best moments, utterly channelled the Doctor to get him through. Not many people can carry off a scene while only wearing a pair of Tom Baker underpants. I also had a soft spot for the fluffy and fabulous Frazer (Paine) as well, but all of the actors had some great moments and carried their parts with conviction. I definitely believed that these people had been friends a long time, even if they are the kind of friends who don't necessarily know each other all that well. I loved Chevalier's quiet Ian in the first part and the surprises he pulled on the audience in the second. La Motte was dramatic and queenly, and her early lines spoken over the phone from the audience were particularly powerful, though she didn't disappoint when she finally appeared on stage. McNicol carried off an unlikeable character with hidden humanity and preserved the awkwardness witht he brotherly relationship all the way through. Gray held it all together as the sanest Doctor Who fan of them all, and the only one doing any work, classy and likeable, constantly juggling her boyfriend's fragile ego with her own frustrations.
Another review here, by the ever reliable Wal Eastman, who gives the wholly necessary perspective of the non Who fan.
The play is still going until the 28th in Hobart, so if you're a Doctor Who fan you definitely want to go along! Seeing it with other fans is an extra part of the experience - one of my favourite moments was when the villain started ranting about all the things she disliked about the new series, only to hear godiyeva solemnly agree with her behind me... According to Wal it's a good little play even without a depth of WHO knowledge, though, so it's worth it for a fun night out even if you're vague on anything more than what a Dalek is. You should still be able to get tickets through Centertainment - it's at the Peacock Theatre, which was sadly only about half full when we were there last night, so it might not be too late to grab Saturday tickets for tonight.