In the interval of MUSE’s current production of A Man of No Importance (adapted from Albert Finney’s 1994 film of the same name) I learned why I had never heard of it before. Curtis Goding (director) and Doug Emery (musical director) are staging the show’s Australian debut and they have found themselves a hidden gem.
The show’s simple plot and colourful characters are ideal for the intimate setting of the likes of the King Street Theatre. The script’s simplicity is backgrounded by an effervescence that suits its 1960s Dublin setting; one that the cast, the score and the costuming captured with ease. Despite being such a diverse cast in such a small space, even the most minor characters have their moment, be it a stirring love song, a brief river-dance or a snappy one-liner, and they never distract from the main story.
The Irish accents aren’t perfect, and a word is lost to the volume of the score here and there, but it’s a musical about amateur theatre. The meta factor of it all, constantly blurring the line between the streets of Dublin and the stage of the parish hall, makes the rough edges, cluttered staging and low production values a key asset.
Aidan Kane is perfectly cast as the story’s protagonist, the vulnerable Alfie Byrne, who takes the play in unexpectedly emotional places. His unadmitted desire is to fulfil an unlikely romance and escape the prospect of dying without having truly lived, torn between his Catholic spirituality and the spectre of his inspiration, Oscar Wilde. Kane’s performance sympathetically captures the heartbreak, guilt and fear that Alfie experiences as he looks for certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.
Natasha Stanton nearly steals the show, selling every moment as Alfie’s protective sister Lily. Alfie’s other friends are a constant joy to watch, even if their role in the narrative itself was minimal. The whole cast does a great job conveying the musical’s core themes of friendship and community.
MUSE’s Australian-first makes for a satisfying night out. For those who won’t get the chance to see this sold-out run, I’m hoping that we’ll see this little show crop up in Sydney again. It’s well-worth the price of admission.