As artists from around Australia prepare to make their way to the Fringe Festival or APAM or to visit relatives in Adelaide, The Old 505 Theatre has been hosting a series of showings. After a cold and accoustically challenging outing at Underbelly Arts Festival (Cockatoo Island), a hot’n’ready showing at Crack Theatre Festival (TINA, Newcastle), 100 Years of Lizards crawled with their glimmering tales into the dark and quirky surrounds of The Old 505 Theatre.

“Millions of years ago, a race of lizards warred against the dinosaurs and won. Now the guilty and chameleonic remnants of that race live on a small island off the coast of Australia, where two lonely scientists are dedicated to studying them. After their funding is threatened, they open the island up to the exuberant and also flagrantly evil host of a travel television show, who likes to ritualistically eat rare animals to remain young forever. Add a maverick lizard King rebellion and a creepy cold blooded love triangle, and you’ve got a classic tale of good versus evil and more importantly lizard versus lizard.”

Patrick Lenton writes comedic plays, sketches, poems and has an ever entertaining and astute blog: The Spontaneity Review: http://spontaneityreview.blogspot.com.au/
in which his bio reads: “Patrick Lenton is a terrible idea. A writer of theatre, prose and comedy” he writes about/reviews such topical topics as “Bread”, “My Hangover”, “Bob Katter”, “Death” and “Poseidon” and “Margaret Pomerance” – Quirky, left-leaning, personal, imaginative, sometimes utterly fabricated and yet always fascinating, Lenton’s adventurousness into the mundane or the chronically obvious is always surprising and often confusing.

Having worked with Lenton as director, dramaturg, producer – I am familar with his work and have been watching him develop over several years- I can absolutely vouch for his congeniality and his work ethic as an artist… but you’re not here to read a reference from me – you want to know about the show.

The show is a chamber cabaret, beginning as traditional melodramas of the 19th Century might – with men puffing on tobacco, postulating on scientific experiments – we then move to a modern day lifestyle program with the horrifyingly alluring Gazelle de la Gusto (Stephen Jones) – then to an island where passionate, somewhat humourless herpetologist, Janet (Penny Greenhalgh) and passionate vegan naturalist Ranger Dirk (Alex Williams) are researching and caring for lizards – then to the world of the lizards wherein dancing is forbidden and there is a dark historical past which has defined the culture of the human-sized lizards.

Part love/lust story, part parable of the downfalls of scientific ambition, part historical fantasy, part social commentary – this is a classic Lenton collision of puns and queer humour wrapped up in organised chaos.

Costumes by Bridget Lutherborrow are inventively indicative and effective as three performers evolve into an array of characters. Music by composer Patrick Weyland-Smith swings from classic musical power-ballad to soulful yearning disco tunes. How does that work? It just does. And all wrangled beautifully by director Ngaire O’Leary.

Performances are sturdy – the triumvirate ensemble conquer their characters knowing full-well the bigger the better – and they deliver. It’s a risky style of performance – relying on a firm tongue in cheek, yet played with all the energy and earnestness of late 19th Century melodrama. And there is a lot to be said for the sheer energetic enthusiasm of the performers.

Lenton’s work sits neatly alongside two other writers who dominate the comedy perfomance writing in Sydney at the moment – Alli Sebastian-Wolf and Nick Coyle. The three form a super-group of entertaining writers- aki to that of a literary Captain Planet – each with their own special niche. Nick Coyle has a strong following of Sydney Uni grads who turn up in droves to delight at his irreverent and quirky jaunts. Coyle’s superpower is “Hipster Cool”. Alli Sebastian-Wolf’s adventures are often large genre explosions, laden with literary references and a nod to high art as she reforms it into a delightful, sexy/lusty story. Sebastian-Wolf’s superpower is “Genre Reconstruction.” And Lenton is a Wollongong Grad who is part Hemmingway, part Doug Anthony All Stars – but with a romantic heart. His strength is “baffling the literal.”

100 years of Lizards is a fun Cabaret adventure into confusion, love and herpetology. If you’re keen for a good time, perhaps a spot of lizard dancing and silly “I can’t believe that was a pun” exclamations – I suggest you check it out.

For those who love a heavy dose of cheese and corn – you’ll get your fill.

If you are in Adelaide – Checkout at 100 years Of Lizards at The Maid Hotel in Adelaide: March 1 – 17th
Tix: http://www.adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/100-years-of-lizards/1f543dfc-8aae-4d48-a834-8abe8c48e537

And for those keen to check out Alli Sebastian Wolf’s work – her show “The importance of Being Earnest Dragons and other Classic Tales as Told by an Octopus” has just opened at The Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney and is on until 24th March. Details here: http://rocksurfers.org/2012/02/the-importance-of-being-ernest-dragons/