By Catherine Hart

Mr Beckenbauer’s Unfortunate Encounter with Enlightenment is absurd, ridiculous, and hilarious. As the final show for the Nelson Fringe Festival it leaves the audience with a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling that is hard to forget.

Mr Beckenbauer’s Unfortunate Encounter With Enlightenment. Photo by Doug Brooks.

The play opens with a catchy song. It is cheerful, energetic, charismatic, and it foreshadows the tone of the show. Nothing is to be taken too seriously in this metatheatrical and absurdist performance.

The three actors (Dan Merry, Indigo Levett and Rohan O’Neill-Stevens) are a wonderful ensemble. They obviously enjoy working together and their joy is reflected in the audience’s laughter. Each young actor is overzealous in an endearing way, and we are rooting for all of them throughout the show. Merry is especially grounded in his character, Mr Beckenbauer, and I wish the other two had more three-dimensional characters to play with. In saying that, Levett’s character of the mother is particularly weird and I wish we were able to see more of her throughout.

In general the design of the piece is well fitting. The cast wore neutral tones with added costume garments for different characters. The stage was filled with furniture and props, all of which were used during the show. Each design element had a purpose and fitted well with the action. However, it would be fascinating to see how the piece would change if the design was more controlled; for example, if the costumes were uniform, or the furniture was removed.

Fitting the absurdist nature of the show, the use of multimedia was bizarre and hilarious. As Beckenbauer exits stage, the projection turned on to show the mundane action of pouring a bowl of cereal. The audience loves it for its ridiculousness. Despite an obvious malfunction in the relaying of the videos, their locality to Nelson and satirical tone is clear and well executed.

Having live music added to the down-to-earth nature of show. I applaud not one but two of the actors for possessing the strange skill of playing the accordion, a rare and comedic instrument in itself. The songs gave the performers a chance to break the fourth wall and involve the audience in the action. They were an integral aspect to the show.

These three young actors are incredibly skilled, even more so when remembering that the piece was also written and directed by themselves. For future shows I would recommend a general reworking of the script and the action, perhaps with the assistance of a pair of fresh eyes, to tighten up a slightly disjointed piece. The story is definitely present but at times it is slightly obscured by superfluous or confusing action, which coupled with a speedy pace can make it hard to keep track of the plot.

The show is definitely absurd, but this tone could be shown to a larger extent. At times we have a glimpse of an awkward silence, but this could be pushed further into Pinter-Pauses. Similarly, the world almost works as it should (with the exception of the use of glitter as mould), but I want to see the world imposing its own rules upon the characters. There is a huge amount of potential to launch the script into a world of bizarre and magical happenings, and I challenge the performers to explore this notion.

Overall Mr Beckenbauer’s Unfortunate Encounter with Enlightenment is a stand-out show for the Nelson Fringe Festival. It is one of the two pieces that have been completely created and performed by young actors, and it is no surprise that it was awarded the Audience Favourite of the Fringe. I very much look forward to seeing what these talented artists will create in the future.

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