Amy Gwinnett sets off on an exciting adventure with The Misadventures of Olive Patterson at the Et Cetera theatre.
Olive Patterson, intrepid adventurer and all round good egg, is going on a quest. This is the premise of Andrea Donovan’s delightful and very funny show, The Misadventures of Olive Patterson, at the Et Cetera theatre in Camden, as ever a wonderful space for uncovering hidden gems – which incidentally is exactly what Olive has set out to do.
Dressed like a budget Indiana Jones, Olive welcomes us in the theatre and advises we have our phone torches at the ready. A couple of lucky audience members also find hand written instructions on their seats as we settle in, setting up a show with just the right amount of audience participation.
Olive starts to monologue, and we’re off. Donovan pulls off a fast paced show, hitting us with unlikely backstory, a search for a lost ancient artefact, cutting social commentary (it’s about education for young women all over the world, she tells us with a friendly pat on the shoulder to a gentleman in the front row, in case we missed it) and self-effacing jokes about being on the wrong side of thirty and performing in pub theatres. There’s no set, just Olive marching this way and that and some handy sound effects to flag up when she’s on a plane, or a bustling local café when on her travels.
Donovan tries her hand at a range of characters, from a thigh-slapping gynaecologist to an east-end camel salesperson, via my personal favourite, an 106 year old explorer who was a friend of Olive’s parents, propping up the bar with a fag and a really very decent American accent.
One of the show’s funniest moments comes when Olive’s camel, Denise, betrays her and nicks all her stuff, leaving her delirious in the desert. She begins to hallucinate, she tells us, and imagines she sees two men sitting… almost as if they were in the front row or something, who get up and help her. Watching her coax an audience member up and instruct them through her ‘hallucination’ is an absolute joy, and the clap reserved for the audience member in question was well deserved.
After the camel disaster, the one woman show gets an additional cast member in the shape of Simon Whisker, a ticket tout and old flame of Olive’s, who just happens to also be on the same quest for hidden treasure. Whisker’s addition to the play keeps things fresh, and it’s refreshing to see a capable woman adventurer and her slightly useless male sidekick as a riposte to all the Indiana Jones stuff. My only criticism would be that things progress rather quickly at this point. After a memorable encounter with a wizened old man (Whisker in a shawl) who also wants the artefact and has a truly inspired (Austrian? Indian? Welsh?) accent there’s just a bit of waterfall climbing and river crossing to go before they reach the end (these things happen rather quickly when there’s no set). Olive then literally climbs over the rows of seats, up the theatre to simulate reaching the cave in question which is lit by fireflies (lit by fireflies she tells us again significantly, and we all reach for our phone torches) and she’s grabbed it, made it back and shared a near kiss with Mr Whisker before you can say intrepid. This does give the show a lopsided feel, but maybe that’s just because I enjoyed it so much I wanted it to be longer. A good egg, and a good show.
Featured Image: Andrea Donovan