There's a new apocalypse in town, and it's a musical; a zombie musical. Written and produced by Anthony Crowley, Motor-Mouth Loves Suck-Face takes place during the final days on Earth before a zombie apocalypse will wipe out humanity. So how does one prepare for such a catastrophic end? For high-school geeks, Motor-Mouth and Suck-Face, it's to throw a party to end all parties.
"Motor-Mouth Loves Suck-Face is high on energy and absurdity and music. The characters are a mix of archetype with their own idiosyncratic twist, which makes them real in a human sense, but stuck in our absurd world," Crowley tells me. "The story is told out of sequence as we zip back and forwards through time. The plot is bizarre and has its roots in comedy shows like Red Dwarf, The Young Ones and The Mighty Boosh, where the story is crazy but there’s also a sustained logic and the characters - as well as the audience - are completely trapped in the craziness."
A pop-rock score and a live band on stage are also part of the show with songs such as "I’d Rather Be A Zombie", "Heart Be A Radio" and the show-stopping "Suck My Armageddon". Influenced by musicians such as Talking Heads, Sarah Blasko, James Taylor and even The Pussycat Dolls, the music is seen as just as much a character of this production than the actors on stage.
Crowley began writing the script in 2007 but even for him, the inspiration for a musical zombie comedy came unexpectedly. "I wanted to write something fun and potentially commercial having recently come back from a project I was working on in New York with Henry Krieger for Kristin Chenoweth," he says. "I wanted to write about rebellion and having to win over the odds and keeping hope and love alive in our heart while the world eats away at it, and I think that’s where zombies came in. The horror that is constantly in our face."
"Teenagers feel everything so intensely so they are a great vehicle for amplifying what we all feel at one time or another. Other themes in the show are obvious but our emphasis is fun. Yes, the earth is being destroyed by a solar flare exacerbating the greenhouse effect and the last polar bear on earth is about to vanish but we stick to having fun and allow the audience to take what they want."
"There’s also another very provocative serious metaphor in the show," Crowley adds. "It's quite provocative I think and it emerged right out of my subconscious. It wasn’t deliberate but it’s there and everyone will be laughing at it (hopefully) and I wonder whether the audience will recognise it. It will be interesting to see whether it will go unnoticed because of the comedy and absurdity of the whole situation."
Crowley has spent much time on not only developing the story but also on how to bring the environment to life at the Chapel Off Chapel theatre space. "When I started designing the set I knew that I had to change the ratio of stage to audience and bring the audience into the party. So we built very high and brought the stage far forward, even out into the audience, so you feel the performers in your face," he explains. "There's a tendency to sit back and watch from a passive position in theatre and we have worked hard to get past this."
of these levels allow the lighting to come from lots of different
places and angles, so we can mix up light with back and side light and
create depth in what is really a very small space. The other thing we've
done is place the band in the space, all around the action. The vibe is
of a group of people telling a story with very little pretence. I think
it's exciting and I love working with all the elements of musical
theatre and being able to access it all at once."
So why are people so fascinated about zombies that warrants such a proliferation of zombie inspired TV, movies, music videos, flash mobs and now musical theatre? "Zombies are a
great fun way of exploring terror and death; all the things that scare
us. They let us face the thing that scares us the most and scream and
laugh at it from the safety of our seat."
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: until 23 October | 7:30pm Tue- Sat, 4:00m Sun
Tickets: $45 Full | $35 Concession | $28 Previews (until 11 October) and Tuesdays
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel