A trio of unlikely adventurers. A quest to save all humanity from a terrible fate. It may sound familiar, but I bet you haven’t seen it done quite like Mudcrabs do it in their first long-form narrative work, Mindquest: Journey into Forever.
The show centres around Eva (Liv Bell) and Gil (Shane Woods), two Brunswick locals pulled into a quest to save the universe from the world-devouring Vortons by an odd being named Evelyn (Iszzy Williamson) who claims to be one hundred years old.
The show opens with Gil’s office colleagues vanishing suddenly, leaving Gil behind. While I was a little lost until a few scenes in, in hindsight the beginning is an interesting introduction to the plot. The show gather steam when Eva and Evelyn meet, gather up Gil and head off on their intergalactic quest.
Populating the worlds they visit are strange (and hilarious) creatures, like frog-headed aliens, lions out for revenge, and a mute astronaut and her dramatic partner. The show’s supporting cast flesh out the vibrant terrains the trio of heroes explore with laudable commitment, each playing multiple roles. The heroes are chased by a barbershop duo (Silvi van Wall, Joe Jackson) who are under the Vorton’s control.
The show’s central quest made it easy to be sucked into the world the actors have devised. The central trio of actors, Liv, Iszzy and Shane, are eminently likable in their roles, making it easy to root for their characters’ success. The simple set pieces mark the transitions into strange new worlds, their off-beat, homemade aesthetic paralleling the cartoonish tone of the show perfectly. Occasional lighting inconsistences sometimes clouded the scene changes – a rocket journey is denoted by changing coloured lights the first time it appears, and not the second. Equally, some lighting choices felt like they were trying for a symbolism that didn’t quite land – but overall the show’s visuals are effective.
The show is cleverly structured, short scenes in different settings combined with the overarching narrative place it nicely between sketch show and play. This approach kept the show fresh and engaging throughout, and allowed the supporting cast to showcase their comedy chops.
While firmly on the lighter side of the entertainment spectrum, Mindquest gestures at deeper themes alongside its comedy, and indeed, through it. Its unapologetically hopeful and fun approach to saving the world is a much-needed reminder to look on the bright side, even when it seems dark in every direction. While some plot points felt less developed than others, the quest, and with it the show, comes to a satisfying end. The show’s cast, and its director James Macaronas, have devised a show that’s creative and so much fun.
Despite its minor flaws, Mindquest is a joyous confection of a show, and an admirable first narrative outing for Mudcrabs.
Mudcrabs’ production of Mindquest: Journey into Forever ran from the 26th-29th of September as part of the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival.