The Golden Fleece
HANNAH MIRSKY is mildly amused yet not inspired by this heartwarming comedy.
ADC Theatre, 11pm, Wednesday 1st – Saturday 4th May, £6/£5
“The Golden Fleece? Isn’t that something to do with a bloke called Jason, going off in a boat?”
“No, no, this Golden Fleece is a farming prize in rural New Zealand.”
“New Zealand? I didn’t think the Ancient Greeks knew the Kiwis.”
“Turns out they’re giving a fleece’s weight in gold to the best sheep farmer in the country. They’ve got ovine millionaires in the outskirts of Auckland.”
“Any of them called Jason?”
The hero of this play is, in fact, called Murray, a gruff and unhygienic farmer determined to win the Golden Fleece for his wife Elizabeth, who died two years ago (trampled by sheep). His world is that of a predictable sitcom, with a sweet love-interest, a deranged arch-nemesis competing for the fleece and a young protégé – his nephew, Alex – who brings him out of his shell. There is nothing new about the plot, or the characters. Each scene progresses almost exactly as you’d expect, until the very end of the show. This is not ground-breaking comedy.
And yet – I kept being surprised. Not by anything that happened, or anyone who appeared, but by the one-liners, the comedy. Murray makes toast by putting bread in the microwave. Trevor answers the question “How do you sleep at night?” with a rant about his “giant fucking bed”. There’s a brief digression about how anyone could fail to cry at Toy Story 3. Best of all, however, are the sheep. They don’t move. They’re just little cardboard tables with faces and fleeces. I’ll let you contemplate how this affects the scene involving sheep-shearing. In a comedy which takes so much from TV sitcom, this moment is hilarious in pointing out the difficulty of putting something on stage.
The comedy is maintained well by an enthusiastic cast who embrace this show’s silliness. The Kiwi accents are occasionally a little dodgy, especially that of Max Roberts as Murray, but the characters are so endearing that this is easily forgiven. A very special mention must go to Dominic Biddle for his fantastically manic portrayal of Murray’s nemesis Trevor. It’s very easy – and enjoyable – to get swept along by the cast’s high-energy quirkiness.
This show isn’t anything new. If you’re after an intellectual challenge, you might as well keep away. If you’re expecting a play about the Argonauts, it’s probably not the show for you. But for a laugh, a great cast and a heartwarming production, you couldn’t ask for anything better.