Unless you have been hiding under a rock for over fifty years, everyone has heard of James Bond. A British Secret Service Agent that embarks on a dangerous mission to save the world from the clutches of an evil super villain. Bond is suave, courageous, packed with gadgets and always has ‘a way’ with the ladies. But what we do not usually see is the story from the perspective of the villain.
A villainous take on these iconic stories is currently playing at The Butterfly Club as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Innes Lloyd’s ‘A Bond Among Us’. I had no idea what to expect from this show and was pleasantly surprised with this unique take on the stories we all love.
Written by David S. Innes and directed by Rob Lloyd, ‘A Bond Among Us’ follows the tale of a new supervillain, Upper Hand played by Seon Williams. The story begins with Upper Hand as a child, as her father reads to her stories of the famous super spy, James Bond. She is infatuated with Bond’s ability to save the day and get the girl. Her love for Bond is wholesome and genuine but takes a turn when Bond himself shows up in her village and wreaks havoc. Her love turns to hate and later she becomes the villain, vowing to seek revenge on the man from MI6.
Just like a Bond flick, ‘A Bond Among Us’ begins with a prologue and then the cast burst into song with a classic ‘Bond Theme’ tailored to the theme of the show. The song was completely unexpected but was hilariously on brand. All four of the cast took part with Louisa Fitzhardinge up front on vocal duties, and what a sublime voice she has! As she works her way through the song, David Innes, Rob Lloyd, and Seon Williams act out various themes that you would expect to see in an opening title sequence.
With the prologue and ‘opening credits’ complete, the rest of the production consists of three acts split by two breaks where Innes and Lloyd return to the stage out of character to read some James Bond fun facts to the audience. This was a lovely touch as it gave some historical insight into the Bond universe and the villains that are portrayed on stage.
Whilst Williams has the one character as Upper Hand, Innes portrays eight different characters! That is right, EIGHT! The ever-invincible Boris Grishenko, steel-jawed Jaws, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld complete with hand puppet Gertrude the Duck as Cat, just to name a few. If that was not enough, Lloyd also portrays eight characters. Then there is Fitzhardinge with seven characters including the vocal duties, as mentioned, and key role of Pussy Galore.
There is so much to love about this production. Aside from the incredible individual performances, the quick stand out for me was the sound production. With a completely blank stage, the four cast mimed movements and hand gestures that are perfectly timed to an accompanying sound effects track. From swiping a security key pass to opening a filing cabinet and flipping through the files within, each sound effect and movement was easy to identify and painted a clear picture in my mind as to what they were doing. A huge bravo to David Innes for the sound design and to Jaklene Vukasinovic, the sound desk operator at each show.
For me though, Seon Williams was the clear stand out of this production. Whilst it is incredible that Fitzhardinge, Innes, and Lloyd portray multiple characters, Williams throws everything into her performance and has more sound effect queues than anyone. How she remembers it all is beyond me. An incredible talent.
There are more than just references to James Bond within this production. This is thanks to the writing from David Innes and the sprinkling so many pop-culture and cinematic references throughout the production. For those theatre rats, there is a nod to Sweeny Todd that had me in stitches. I also noticed some references such as the Oceans films, Face/Off, Get Smart, and Predator just to name a few. There is even reference to, as the title suggests, Among Us. I will not reveal how or why because that will spoil the fun. You will just have to witness it for yourself.
Not only is ‘A Bond Among Us’ a brilliantly wonderful take on an extremely popular franchise, but it is also a loving companion piece of the Bond films. Through the little fun facts and story that unfolds, this clever production provides some insight into the backstories that are usually overlooked. Innes Lloyd are incredibly aware that James Bond would not be James Bond without the villains that he must kill.
There are many shows that I have seen at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival but only a few of them have hit the ‘I must see it again’ status. I can happily say that ‘A Bond Among Us’ is now up there at the top of that list. A must-see experience for all film, theatre, and James Bond fans alike.
‘A Bond Among Us’ is playing at The Butterfly Club every night this week at 7pm until the 17th of April 2022.
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