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FASS 2002: Sy Lentnight (Neil Murray) and Toni Tymn (Allison Luby), a happily married couple (at least until Sy gets murdered).

FASS 1997 - Imprint review

This review appeared in the February 7, 1997, issue of Imprint.

A sorry mess

Greg Krafchick, Imprint staff

While watching this year's installment of FASS, one phrase kept popping into my head, because it sums up the whole organization - "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

I thought of this because the organization of Faculty, Alumni, Students and Staff have, for thirty-five years, run a group that sets out in the noble pursuit of fun for its members. The outgoing and friendly cast give newcomers, many who've never been on stage before, the chance to feel that exhilaration of theatrical performance. Previously shy and quiet people are dragged out of their shells, friendships are born, the odd relationship might pop up. Who could fault that?

There's just one problem though, and that becomes apparent in the very first scene. Whatever its intentions, the bottom line is that FASS is performing to people who expect to be entertained. And that just isn't happening here.

In fact, the script to 1001 Arthurian Knights is not very good. Or rather, it's kinda bad. Actually, in parts, it's dreadful. Though it's riddled with characteristically FASSesque juvenile puns and grade seven-level humour, this is in fact not its greatest shortcoming. The main problem with the story is its complete lack of any sort of cohesive plot.

It's very easy to see what's happening here if you know the way the FASS script, an entirely original work every year, is composed. A committee of writers is headed by a chief scriptwriter. Each year a theme is picked by FASS members at an AGM, and the writers (numbering 29 in all this year) spend the better part of a year hammering out a finished product around the idea.

And there's the problem. The story runs exactly as if 29 people are writing it - wildly inconsistent, and full of useless scenes that are there because some writer stumbled upon a brilliant idea and chucked it into the brew. As such we get a "plot" like this: some students are transported off to King Arthur's court in different universes. They each play out vaguely Arthurian scenes with different Lancelots, Merlins etc. (it's different universes, see) all of which have nothing to do with one another. Then, in the most shameless and pathetic use of a Deus Ex Machina I've ever seen, the characters are all brought back to good ol' UW - and that's it.

Now granted the scriptwriters do annually face the daunting task of trying to find places for 70+ cast members, who often get two parts. However, by not carrying over characters scene to scene, and by not keeping the same people playing the cast of Camelot, it not only confuses people, but the lack of recognition of characters means the audience simply doesn't care about any of them. We barely get to know one Arthur, and we're onto the next universe! And all because someone on the script writing committee wanted gangsters or Bomber scenes shoved into the whole sorry mess.

So FASS should take this as a challenge. Their script writing method desperately needs overhaul. Elect a small staff of five or six crackerjack writers at the AGM, and have them work together to weave characters people latch onto, instead of a endless deluge of one-timers.

Amongst all the disjointedness are some fine performances and flashes of inspired writing. Paul McKone as a randy King Arthur steals the show. He nails the sense of timing so crucial to farcical comedy, and he's helped by a scene that's smartly written and highlighted by a fine musical number to the tune of "Herod's Song" from Jesus Christ Superstar. Hugh M. Morrison spoofing Hercule Poirot would be bang-on if he just did it triple time (this is comedy after all). Other talented actors would include Chris Goddard as Robin Hood and Andrea McPhee's spunky Queen Guinevere.

For sure, a number of performances aren't super-professional, and the dancing and singing is a little awkward at times. But it's not supposed to be that way, it's supposed to be about people getting on stage and having a blast and all the great stuff I talked about the beginning.

BUT - and this is a sumo wrestler-sized but - they need words in their mouths that can match all the other great things FASS is about. To have it any other way is criminal.