The stage erupts with mist from the smoke machine (liberally used throughout the production) and Alexander Richmond appears, a vision in blue chinos. Julia Robertson does an admirable impression of an annoying eight-year-old with a heart of gold. We learn that the titular unlimited dream factory is in fact, limited, and that Richmond’s dream professor needs the little girl’s enthusiasm to get his groove back and start pumping out dreams for the townspeople again. And thus begins another Arts Revue.
With the beginning of the show heavy with the potential for heart-warming cheese, the following skits are surprisingly macabre. The spectre of death seems to haunt the dreams featured in the Arts Revue; there’s dead parents, dead friends, dead babies, dead animals, dead krill and even dead Scooby Doo. This misanthropic parade of destruction was generally entertaining and occasionally outright hilarious, and the opening skit, which ends with the realisation that a boy has killed his parents, is an uproarious sign of things to come. Maybe The Unlimited Dream Factory wanted to confront the existential dread accompanying our constant movement towards inevitable death – or maybe there is just something inherently funny about watching the death of a beloved cartoon character. There was also an unexpectedly high prevalence of crustaceans in the show, culminating in the rap battle entitled ‘Seafood Platter’. When I entered the theatre, I didn’t expect to see a rapping oyster declare that he would, “make my girlfriend moister,” but I realise now that was something I needed in my life.
The Arts Revue does falter occasionally, however. There were a number of skits that were not funny, more that were forgettable, and none that were so terrible you felt compelled to laugh anyway. The acts that flopped pushed the boundaries of discomfort without following up with laughs; potentially, they lacked the sense of irony that permeated the more successful skits. Obviously, the genius surrealism of Patrick Morrow’s journey to become a crab-human hybrid cannot be expected to be matched in every part of the show. But there is surely a middle ground between that masterpiece of our times and the numerous sight gag skits that were extended beyond the limits of humour.
The ending of the Arts Revue was an inspiring musical number in which everyone learned to follow their dreams, or the dream professor could make more dreams, or something. Regardless, it warmed my cold reviewer’s heart and I felt that the Unlimited Dream Factory had been very nice, in spite (or because) of the high murder rate.
Image: Ben Blythe.