Go­ing Bart to the fu­ture

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - JO LITSON ARTS WRITER [email protected]­POND.COM

If there was a nu­clear catas­tro­phe and so­ci­ety as we know it ceased to ex­ist, what sto­ries would sur­vivors con­tinue to tell? Shake­speare? The Bi­ble? Or could it ac­tu­ally be episodes of The Simp­sons as Amer­i­can play­wright Anne Wash­burn sug­gests in her 2012 play Mr Burns, A Post-Elec­tric Play?

Set in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Amer­ica, Wash­burn’s weird and won­der­ful three-act mu­si­cal drama be­gins with a group of sur­vivors sit­ting around a camp fire retelling The Simp­sons’ 1993 Cape Feare episode (a par­ody of the Cape Fear film, in which Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart) to keep them­selves en­ter­tained.

Seven years later, they have formed a trav­el­ling the­atre troupe, which per­forms Simp­sons episodes. By the play’s end, 75 years on, the le­gend of The Simp­sons has grown to such an ex­tent that they have be­come quasire­li­gious fig­ures, with Bart as the Je­sus-like saviour of the world and Mr Burns as the satanic vil­lain.

The play opens at Belvoir this week, af­ter a suc­cess­ful Ade­laide sea­son, with a top-notch cast. Es­ther Han­naford (who is soon to play Ca­role King in the mu­si­cal Beau­ti­ful) plays Bart, while Brent Hill (who co-starred with Han­naford in last year’s Lit­tle Shop Of Hor­rors) is Homer.

Mitchell Bu­tel, whose nu­mer­ous cred­its in­clude the mu­si­cal Av­enue Q, An­gels in Amer­ica for Belvoir, and The Mikado for Opera Aus­tralia, plays Mr Burns.

Bu­tel can’t help laugh­ing when he de­scribes the sparkly black cat suit and huge hump he wears in the fi­nal act, which takes the form of a pop-rap-op­eretta.

“I look like some dis­gust­ing Richard III swamp mon­ster, but se­quined and fab­u­lous at the same time. It’s quite a look!” he says.

“Anne Wash­burn is very clear that the third act is in­spired by The Simp­sons but that the char­ac­ters are not im­i­ta­tions. In­stead, we take on this mytho­log­i­cal qual­ity. As Mr Burns, I be­come ev­ery vil­lain that ever was — I’m Satan, I’m Hitler, Ivan Mi­lat, Cap­tain Hook. It’s pretty hideous but it’s great.

“It’s kind of a spring­board for a con­sid­er­a­tion of what is good, what is evil and what is en­ter­tain­ment. Ul­ti­mately the play is a cel­e­bra­tion and a homage to the­atre and sto­ry­telling.”

MR BURNS, A POST- ELEC­TRIC PLAY, BELVOIR ST THE­ATRE, MAY 19- JUNE 25. BOOK: 9699 3444

Mitchell Bu­tel stars as the satanic Mr Burns.

Brent Hill, Jude Hen­shall, Paula Arun­dell and Es­ther Han­naford.

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