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Published July 13, 2019

It’s all in the title really – clever, funny, macabre, and grotesque. A performance of a man abandoned in a post-apocalypse world, hungry and desperate to get by, complete with circus tricks, a visually stunning stage, and some downright quirky actions from the solo Mitch Jones, AutoCannibal is a show to fulfill the appetite of those with an appreciation of dark theatre meeting circus performances.

Aesthetically AutoCannnical was incredible. The visuals alone were in a league of their own – a solid mix of the foreboding and sinister (with literal bones on stage) combined with the absurd and at times comical – something which was at times almost jarring. Every prop and stage item was utilised and symbolic with meaning – the flashing lights illuminating stockings, plastic bags in lieu of food, a mirror with a large slice of ham over it, and, of course, the saws hanging from the roof. Every time something was touched, it had purpose (or at least seemed to), and it appeared to have both artistic symbolism as well as visual delight.

Also, without giving too much away, the rubbish bag scene was something this reviewer has never seen before. The show alone is worth that scene.

Aurally it was clear a lot of work went into the show as well. Most of the time the atmospheric music built up sinister decisions and conjured surreal moments, especially when combined with the visuals onstage, but it went a bit beyond that. There were the occasional grunts from the solo Mitch Jones, but the only words were pre-recorded instructions or “news broadcasts”. These moments were few and far between (separated at one point by what can only be described as a surreal hunger-induced dance number), but made for an enjoyable audio experience.

This visual and aural display, when combined with the (mostly) silent charisma of the lonesome Jones, made for a captivating 45 minutes. The direction from Masha Terentieva and performance from Jones worked very well in this show.

Melbourne_theatre_autocannibal
Mitch Jones showcasing acrobatic skill in the post-apocalypse world of “AutoCannibal”.
Credit Jacinta Oaten.

The circus elements were very prominent in the show, clearly indicating Jones’ performing background. Apart from looking impressive (balancing an axe on your chin is never not impressive to be honest), it added to the overall foreboding nature of the show. Circus shows often have an element of “can this guy really pull it off? What if he falls? Are those blades real?” – an attribute which was brought effectively into AutoCannibal. Who expects their theatre productions to be unsafe in the same way as a circus act?

Plus the athletic abilities are always impressive – especially when wearing tattered clothing in lieu of the traditional acrobat’s leotard.

The only really negative thing that can be brought against the performance was that it did not quite balance the humour and the macabre well enough. Although there were moments that could have come straight from a slapstick, they were placed at times straight after something a bit too disturbing, which had the audience a little confused as to what they were supposed to laugh at. However, these moments were minor blemishes on an otherwise strong display of skill and aesthetics.

Overall, a strong performance for a wickedly delightful and disturbing show.

AutoCannibal is showing at TheatreWorks (14 Acland Street, St Kilda) from July 10 – July 21. Buy tickets here.

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