Review: 300 to 1

Following a recommendation, Tim and The Devil go along to see Matt Panesh’s 300 to 1

TIM: So here’s a concept for you, a one man show re-enacting the movie 300 with critical commentary from the ghosts of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

THE DEVIL: Intriguing.

TIM: Yes. I think the concept is brilliant and I had high expectations going into the Chamber Room. Luckily that gem of an idea was brought to perfect execution in Matt Panesh’s 300 to 1. A teenage boy, bored at the prospect of having to read First World War poetry for homework, contemplates joining the army. When confronted by Owen and Sassoon, he attempts to justify himself by launching into a testosterone fuelled rendition of 2007 film. Panesh is perhaps better known for his work as the sh*t flinging monkey poet and is something of a staple at The Banshee Labyrinth. He openly embraces the idea that this is a free fringe show, he delights in the low-fi, indie aesthetic. He bounds from character to character as the cast grows steadily larger. He waves his hands and chants “wibbly wobbly” when he needs special effects. And yet, behind the incredibly high-energy irreverence of his performance, is a work that is both genuinely clever and unnecessarily awesome.

THE DEVIL: Yes. It would be very easy to get swept up in the sweaty whirlwind and miss Matt’s attention to detail. He captured the characters he wanted to portray with ease. His slow motion battle scene did a great job of following Gerard Butler’s choreography. The poets provided excellent commentary on the abundant homo-eroticism whilst sniping at the classical references. But I was most impressed at Matt’s subtle skill with manipulating an audience.

TIM: Absolutely! Like the way he built our expectations before the infamous “This is Sparta!” line.

THE DEVIL: And had us writhing in our death throes as Persian arrows rained down.

TIM: For me, the most striking demonstration of how well Panesh steered the audience’s emotional experience came toward the end. He delivered Leonidas’ soliloquy prior to his last stand. His T-shirt was up under his chin, revealing the extra musculature that he’d haphazardly drawn on his scrawny belly. He looked absurd. But he gave that speech with such dignified gravitas and I couldn’t help but feel stirred – a part of me was ready to take up arms and die to defend freedom and reason. And then Sassoon made the teenage boy read dulce et decorum est and the mood in the room turned on a pin.

THE DEVIL: Do you think people need to have seen the film to enjoy it?

TIM: I haven’t seen the film and that didn’t stop me laughing a lot. To be honest, I don’t think it matters too much. Of everything I’ve seen at The Fringe this was probably the most fun. It’s also something that exactly lives up to its pitch. If the idea appeals to you even remotely then you’re going to enjoy what you get. Go!

Tim Ralphs is a storyteller and his show of urban devilry Rebranding Beelzebub is on every night from 2 August 2014 to 24 August 2014 at 9:50pm in The Banshee Labyrinth. A PBH free fringe performance – you only have to pay what you think the Devil is due.


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