Adelaide Production

Mandeville Enterprises is delighted to include mention of another stage production of Stoke's adventures. The performances took place in Adelaide Australia as part of the Fringe Festival there, on March 4th, 5th and 6th, 2009, at the Union Cinema, L4 Union House, Adelaide University. Our antipodean cousins rose to the occasion and shone the light of decency in that region, bringing hope and good moustache styling tips to all.

Here you may regard how the importance of tradition has been assimilated, and witness the skill and dedication to detail that has gone in to this recreation of the correct Mandevelian stance.

The director, Mr Christian Reynolds, while travelling in Singapore, came across a manuscript describing Stoke Mandeville and his achievements. Such was the profound effect that this manuscript had on Mr Reynolds, that he immediately sought out and purchased a pith helmet.

The cast included Matthew Taylor, James Moffatt, Katherine Edmond and Christian Reynolds, as well as other prominent theatrical board-treaders of South Australia.

The production was reviewed as follows:

From Rip It Up Magazine:

Cricket, space machines, spies, empires and anything else you can throw in will ensure you have a deep belly laugh. Brace yourself as you’re taken to a whole new dimension. This is a parallel universe where the British Empire conquers the galaxy (sound familiar?). Stoke and his fellow Castersen [Carstairs, I think the reviewer means - Ed.], by default, are steaming their way through time and space, meeting, greeting, and conquering all who get in their way. Graham really has no idea. A lowly lawyer, shy and reserved, he is suddenly taken by Stoke Mandeville to this parallel universe where he is Castersen and is the envy of all; a legend. Graham is so adaptable to his new alter ego! French spies infiltrate the mechanism of the Empire. Stoke will catch these dastardly spies by showing them up; weed them out and those who can’t play cricket must be the French spies. Who do you think showed up whom? Funny and witty.
Edel Perth & Kathryn Barclay

From dB Magazine ("S.A.'s Street Press Since 1990"):

If I could sum up 'The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville' in one word it would be: ambitious. The writers of this whimsical little play present their audience with an entirely different parallel universe packed with outlandish science fiction concepts in a mere hour and a half. It's a challenge the cast mostly live up to, and it does make for a refreshingly unusual experience.

Despite the title, the hero of the piece is lawyer Graham Pennyworth, a meek doormat of a man who is accidentally dragged into the steam-driven, space-faring Victorian Empire of Stoke Mandeville, a pompous, bellowing adventurer who mistakes Graham for his trusty partner Carsters. Together, they must uncover a dastardly French plot to imitate British manners and infiltrate the Empire.

The early part of the play, which involves a great deal of exposition, struggles to raise much laughter, and the cast, for all their enthusiasm, seem to be trying too hard. But once the story picks up steam (pardon the pun), the wit starts to shine through, the performances hit their stride, and there is a great deal of fun to be had. Graham's transformation into a man of action is amusing as well as narratively satisfying. And the whole thing looks great as well, with no effort spared in terms of costumes and props.

Although it feels at times like it would do better as a comic novel in the vein of Douglas Adams (who gets a name-check in one scene) than a play, and Stoke's bluster is a tad overdone, the true joy of this production is its sheer originality and sense of fun. 'The Adventures Of Stoke Mandeville' is exactly the sort of thing the Fringe should be all about.

Henry Nicholls

From The New Adelaide Theatre Guide:

Review by Michael Feast
This is the story of a man time-travelling [an interesting mistake by the reviewer here - no time travel is involved in this play - Ed.] to stop the French from taking over the Empire, all the while keeping a stiff upper lip. Look out Doctor Who! It’s the Adventures of Stoke Mandeville – Astronaut and Gentleman.

Graham Pennyworth (James Moffatt) finds himself in a parallel dimension. He is joined by the eccentric, pipe-smoking Stoke Mandeville (played with gusto by Matthew Taylor). Pennyworth is seen by Stoke as Carstairs MacDonald, a right hand man equal to the task of saving Victorian England [no, not Victorian England, but the contemporary British Empire of a parallel dimension - Ed.] when the Empire is thrown into a state of panic by French spies. From royalty to convicts, Stoke is able to take it all in his stride to demonstrate the perfect example of manhood as only a good Englishman can.

Director Christian Reynolds has done well with the casting, but a snappier pace would be welcome.

Mateo Szlapek-Sewillo and Simon Walsh were delightful as Bruce and Bruce, employing authentic “convict” accents. Christian Reynolds, Sam Tully, Stacey Goodwin, Christopher Kemp and Katherine Edmond ably performed various supporting roles.

The strong script is by Nikolas Lloyd and Fraser Charlton.

This play is a must for any science fiction fan, particularly ‘Doctor Who’ lovers. With the current talk of David Tennant’s replacement, this reviewer would suggest Stoke Mandeville – Astronaut and Gentleman. A good debut performance from Adelaide University Fringe Club.

From Festival Freak:

The title The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville, Astronaut and Gentleman should impart a pretty good idea as to the intent of this production; you should be thinking tally-ho, stiff-upper-lip, I say! Graham Pennyworth, a somewhat wussy chap in modern-day England, suddenly finds himself in a Victorian-era-esque parallel universe, where he is the spitting image of Stoke Mandeville’s offsider, Carstairs. They engage in wacky adventures, seeking out their villainous French nemesis (using a carefully devised game of cricket, no less), before returning the invigorated Pennyworth to his rightful dimension.

Errrm… yes. That just about covers it.

In terms of performance, Matthew Taylor is simply superb as Stoke - his ample frame and booming voice dominates proceedings, with a fair dollop of dry humour thrown in for good measure. As the other leading man, James Moffatt’s Pennyworth is initially unconvincing, but gets better as he adopts more of Carstairs personality later in the piece. The Narrators are also ace, propelling the story along with aplomb - albeit skipping humourously over the exciting bits - but I can’t help but think that there hasn’t been enough rehearsal time allowed: the dialogue is a litany of lost lines and plump pauses. There’s also the amateurish handling of scene changes, with ramshackle shuffling of props on- and off-stage - but even that finds a way to seem endearing.

It’s not quite the two hours suggested in the Guide - a tight 80 minutes, starting late - but the Uni Fringe Club’s maiden voyage should be considered a reasonable success. Entertaining? Yes. Quality theatre? Not really - it’s decidedly amateur. Worthwhile? Hmmmmm… with so much else on, the jury’s still out… but you’ll note that I didn’t chuck it on the Must-See List. Bit of a hint there, I reckon.

From the Fringe Forum Website:

Katherine wrote:
I had a wonderful time at Stoke Mandeville tonight, the humour is very British and whilst it is an amateur performance it is was an enjoyable night.

Tophat_man wrote:
What a very funny show, a very British (but still funny) show. The plot is that a lawyer is kidnapped to an alternative dimension alongside heroic agent Stoke Mandeville. After a stiff talking-to they get on with the job of 'saving the Empire'. This is Douglas Adams crossed with "Ripping Yarns". Lots of laughts at the French. Go if your don't mind a laugh at the British or French and understand it is a Uni production. A true Fringe show.

Kodak_Ghost wrote:
Gadzooks and Huzza! A fine show indeed. A bit slow paced occasionally, but the characters had you believing and chuckling in the right places. On a bit early in the evening (6.30), but great to set you up for the rest of the night. Worth a look and to laugh at some outrageous overacting (intentional) and great one-liners. Be quick, only on for two more nights (Thurs 5 Fri 6). God save the King!

Excelisdecays wrote:
The show had me laughing from the beginning to end. This is a show for those who enjoy a good hard laugh. Comedy at its best!

From Five Kinds of Awesome:

The past couple of nights I've been enjoying some things on offer at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. On Thursday night I went to see the Adelaide University Fringe Club production of the Adventures of Stoke Mandeville.

This was a very entertaining and funny play about a hopeless guy who is taken on a trip to an alternate dimension with Victorian gentleman and steam-powered space travel. The main actors were great and managed to get plenty of laughs. The person playing the role of Stoke is also the president of the Adelaide Uni Clubs Association and the Roleplaying Club. I was impressed with the way he was able to do a loud British gentleman's voice for the whole play. The play was a lot of fun and made me think I should see plays more often.

From Nellie Elephant (a blog):

The Adventures of Stoke Mandeville, Astronaut and Gentleman. It's set in a parallel steam-punk world, full of Victorian values and British stiff-upper-lip-edness. (And dastardly Frenchman!) It was brilliant and very fun.

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