The first act contains some exceptional physical theatre and mime which often has us mesmerised and amazed, however it is somewhat plagued by technical issues. These begin with a recurring gag using a mimed door—there is a sound effect which accompanies this ‘bit’ and it did not once play on cue. Even the kids in the crowd noticed this, with a child sitting next to me exclaiming, “You could just do it yourself!” much to the amusement of those who overheard.
This was especially noticeable during a segment which explored some famous Wellington landmarks, each with an accompanying sound. Mr Fungus makes a game of flipping between the various landmarks and challenging the SFX to keep up. Unfortunately, they miss the mark and the joke lands pretty flat. That same audience member summed it up, saying, “I feel like you’re making this up on the spot.”. Kids are brutal reviewers! Art Murmurs, I reckon we should sign him up!
To Aitken’s credit, one of the highlights of the show is his audience work. He really listens to the crowd and responds to them with animated facial expression, whistles, and that trademark Mr Fungus giggle. The tech issues, I suspect, are a byproduct of a lack of tech rehearsal and will certainly improve as the season and future shows develop. The lighting is bright and vibrant, and the backing tracks add energy and atmosphere which assist Aitken in creating a child-like spectacle which even sees the adults—myself included—whooping like kids and chanting “Fungus, Fungus, Fungus!” throughout the show.
The second act has a whole lot more audience interaction and it is here that the show really finds its feet. Mr Fungus arrives at the show from his “journey” and wins the crowd with a well-executed juggling routine and some inventive takes on classic balloon animals. The balloon bow and arrow is a particular hit—excuse the pun. He closes out with balloon-based fireworks and a delightful post-show message. Aitken breaks character by speaking directly to us for the first time in the show. He reminds us how important it is to laugh and play, and to “look after each other and the planet”. A wholesome end to a charming show which young audiences are sure to enjoy!
Mr Fungus Returns was created by Fergus Aitken and Fraser Hooper with support from the Creative Communities Scheme, as a part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival 2019. Check out www.fergusaitken.co.nz for upcoming shows from Mr Fungus around the country.