The Explorers’ Club – Stirling Players

The Explorers’ Club – Stirling Players

The Stirling Players start their 2024 season with an Australian premier of The Explorers’ Club.  This offering is relatively new having been written in 2013 by Nell Benjamin, however Nell should be no stranger to us having been co-writer on the score for Legally Blonde, the Musical and the lyrics to Mean Girls receiving multiple Tony Award nominations including Best Original Score and Best Musical.  The Explorers’ Club won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play, the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award and an Alfred P Sloan Foundation grant.  Nell also has multiple television credits to her name including work with Neil Patrick Harris.

The play is set in a scientific club in London 1879 as a rival to the Royal Geographic Society.  It is a typical men’s club with stuffed animals hung on the walls and displayed around the room, leather chesterfields to lounge in, a bar and waiter to serve the obligatory Brandy and Cigars each afternoon and absolutely no women allowed.  The Haven is a place for the “Men” to talk about all their past exploits, swagger and strut their way through the show.

Director Emily Currie has gathered a stellar cast of character actors who each immersed themselves into their roles.  Her direction focused on almost slapstick comedy and worked wonderfully with the script’s dialogue.  The rehearsals required for the Brandy and Cigars sequence in Act 2 alone would have taken hours and many a broken glass I would assume.

Most of the cast will not be strangers to you with many years of performances between them for various companies.

Gary George is Lucius Fretway who has a very quaint crush on Miss Phyllida Spotte-Hume played by Angela Short.  Lucius wants to bring Phyllida into the Explorers’ Club and names a plant after her as a token of his esteem with hilarious repercussions.

Joshua Coldwell is Harry Percy, the swaggering, strutting, womanising olden day equivalent of Indiana Jones, recently returned from discovering yet another Pole albeit minus half his expedition.

Matthew Chapman – Professor Walling (Zoologist) and David Salter – Professor Cope (Herpetologist) are excellent foils for each other and you just know right from the start that their story is not going to end well.  Many of their non-verbal cues are hilarious.

Steve Marvanek as Professor Slone is a true misogynist and an archeo-theologist who claims the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel have been found in Ireland and need to be relocated back to Palestine.  Can you guess?

Brendan Clare is Sir Humphries, private secretary to Queen Victoria and herald of official declarations of war which go slightly awry when the Irish arrive to protest their migration.

Benny Woodrow plays dual roles in the production.  First at the spokesman of the displaced Irish and later as the hapless Beebe who was left for dead by Harry Percy in the snow covered mountains.

Finally a newcomer to the Stirling stage, Ky Speedy who plays Luigi, the pivotal character of the production who doesn’t understand a word of English.  Ky’s performance and his on stage mannerisms are hilarious but put together with his interactions with the rest of this cast make for some truly hysterical moments.

If you are a fan of Black Adder or enjoy the silliness of Monty Python, you will love this production.  Remember to bring the tissues though as you will be howling with laughter throughout.

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This production was reviewed by:

Jacqui Wall
Jacqui Wall
Involved in theatre since 1980, with Scout Performing Arts then later branching out to TASA companies. Jacqui has been involved in many aspects of theatre including: cast, directing, production and stage management and most other departments. Jacqui has been fortunate to learn lighting from some of the best including Bill Everett of Apollo Lighting.

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