By Colin Flaherty

A cast of characters trapped in the shopping mecca Chadstone was an intriguing concept for a sketch show. Largely inspired by Naomi Klein’s book “No Logo”, Chaddyslap! attempted to be an absurdist critique of our consumerist society but as a work of satire it fell well short.

One scene was prefaced with a warning that it was less a sketch and more a blunt analogy of the capitalist machine, but I found this was the case with the majority of the sketches presented here. They tried to poke fun at the retail trade but they often punched down on the downtrodden workers which I ultimately found depressing rather than hilarious. On the whole, this show maintained too much of the seriousness of Klein’s tome without finding enough amusing angles. Similarly their “parody” songs replaced the lyrics of popular tunes with dry facts about the evils of consumerism and lots of marketing buzzwords, but failed to include any jokes.

Attempts at being surreal resulted in some nicely strange situations, suitably kooky characters and clever anthropomorphized brands. These were enjoyable enough to raise some smiles but they were surface level observations and lacked punchlines. The cast did their valiant best in selling the script with plenty of mugging and exaggerated delivery, but it wasn’t enough.

The production values were very impressive with creative staging, clever props and elaborate costuming. The main attraction was a screen showing the characters filmed guerrilla-style at Chadstone, allowing them to transition from screen to stage at the start of scenes. This screen also displayed lyrics (and a ridiculously lengthy quote from Klein) but with the cast always milling about in front of it, reading the text was next to impossible. There was plenty of razzle dazzle with some song and dance numbers that, despite not all the cast having tuneful voices, were fun.

With most of Klein’s observations/accusations still a concern twenty years on, this can be seen as a worthy performance. It was enjoyable enough as a piece of semi-serious theatre but don’t expect to be doubled over with laughter.

Chaddyslap! is on at Trades Halls until September 29