I was quite perplexed when I was asked to go and review The Human Centipede Parody Musical. How do you turn one of the most grotesque films of recent times into something beautiful?
For the uninitiated The Human Centipede is a 2009 film that has spawned two sequels all of which largely revolve around people wanting to kidnap others and then sew their mouths and anuses together to create a creature known as a human centipede. No word of a lie, these films are so full on that cinemas have handed out sick bags at screenings… and I have seen first-hand that they were needed.
On one hand, The Human Centipede Parody Musical doesn’t stray too far from the source material but on the other hand it does. Let me explain!
Directed by Gabrielle Ward, The Human Centipede Parody Musical does not stray too much from the original plot of the film. Psychotic German surgeon Dr. Heiter (Beau Wharton) dreams of creating his very own human centipede and he soon has some unwilling victims in the form of naïve tourists, Lindsay (Isabel Lanigan), Jenny (Georg Gleeson), and Katsuro (Jacob Kuek).
But while he puts his evil plan to work, he is unknowingly being hunted down by old school detective duo Voller (Liam Hartley) and Kranz (Oliver Catton).
Thankfully, I am happy to say that that is where the similarities between film and stage musical end. See, with the plot similar, Hartley and Catton, who also wrote this musical, have opted away from the grotesque, vomit inducing scenes of the film and instead introduce their audience to the humorous potential of the plot – complete with original songs, dance and even tap.
Of course, while watching The Human Centipede Parody Musical, I did wonder what kinds of sickos could watch the original film and think “hey, I could turn that into a dance number”. Sickos or creative geniuses? I think after finding myself laughing hysterically at the show and humming the songs once leaving the theatre, I have to lean towards the fact that Hartley and Catton certainly fall into the latter.
I have found sometimes that parodies can just go for the obvious jokes but here Hartley and Catton have let their minds flow freely and the result is something really creative. From the story being told by a grandfather reading to his sick grandchild (a parody of The Princess Diary itself), through to an all singing and even tapping centipede, there is always something new happening on stage and the audience is kept constantly guessing.
There have also been 18 original songs written for the show thanks to the creative mind of composer and musical director Thomas Currie. All tracks work sensationally well and I have found myself humming and singing to ‘We Are Fucked’ and ‘Three Heads Are Better Than One’ long after I left the theatre. These songs worked so well and were enhanced by the amazing voice of Isabel Lanigan who stole the show with her powerful vocals and strong stage presence.
The entire cast were amazing and well suited to their roles; however, Jacob Keuk and Liam Hartley were stand-outs with their comedic timing and often had me laughing out loud. I must pay credit to Beau Wharton who managed to make one of the most psychotic characters to ever grace the stage somewhat comedic as well, no easy feat yet he pulled it off with charisma and style.
My only criticism of The Human Centipede Parody Musical is that sadly on opening night the sound mix was a little off. Sadly, at times some performers were drowned out by the strong music and I really had to strain my ears to listen to the lyrics. Hopefully, this is corrected as the season goes on because it is a shame for such a small thing to damper what is otherwise a magnificent production.
I never thought there could ever be a time that I could laugh at The Human Centipede but oh boy, this creative team and cast have made this story something to laugh and sing about with true creative genius.
The Human Centipede Parody Musical is on at The Alex Theatre in St Kilda from the 26th to the 31st of October.
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