Debbie Kruger
Thursday, December 9, 1993


By arts writer DEBBIE KRUGER

In all my years of reviewing the performing arts in Australia and Britain, I have never witnessed a spectacle quite like Lyndon Terracini's adaptation of The Cars That Ate Paris.

It was neither high drama nor high art, but it was imaginative, enthralling, exciting, funny and totally unique.

Using Peter Weir's 1970s Australian film as a starting point, Terracini has fashioned a bizarre yet thoughtful piece which depicts the multi-layered structure of Society, illustrating the various roles individuals play in the social and economical makeup of a town or city, from politicians to doctors to prostitutes to ferals.

Original scenes from the movie are interspersed with totally original plot twists and characters, music, dance and even a show-stopping song.

Most of Weir's original characters were turned into grotesque figures and the actors relished in the playing of them.

John Gibson, as the Mayor of the fictitious town Paris, was larger than life and brilliantly commanding, while Mandy Nolan, playing his chained-to-the-kitchen-sink wife was poignant and hysterical.

The only “normal” character, Arthur, was played by Peter Emerton, who perfectly portrayed the innocent misfit, drawn into the town's intricacies against his will by a contrived car accident.

However, the acting was only one element of this immensely entertaining package.

The dancing, choreographed by Michael Hennessy, and featuring his dance company Edge, was riveting, enhanced by an array of wild costumes.

The music, mostly original soundtrack by Terracini and Fred Cole (but also including Verdi's Requiem) was consumately atmospheric.

The lighting by John Rayment was expertly functional and artistic, and Jan Rae's marvellous installation and design of painted car wrecks, in which the inhabitants of Paris lived, was a star in its own right.

Added to that were fires (put out by Lismore's Fire Brigade) and fireworks, circus-like effects and real racing and stock cars zooming up and down Bounty Street, the total result of which was a feast for all the senses, a mesmerising hour of slick, professional performance art which will live long in the memories of those fortunate enough to experience it.

It was a pleasure to see such a successful collaborative effort which had the input of far more people and resources than the relatively small budget would have allowed, and it is a shame that NORPA has staged this outdoor event as a one-off, when it is so glaringly perfect for a lengthy season either in Byron Bay for the holiday period, or at one of the several arts festivals taking place around Australia in the next three months.

In an ironic twist, however, rain last Sunday meant the cancellation of the third performance, and due to the demand for tickets three more performances have been scheduled for this weekend, on Friday Saturday and Sunday nights.

For information and tickets, phone Lismore City Hall on 22 0500.

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