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HOT: The Ballad of Backbone Joe, World Theatre Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse, 119 Lamington St, New Farm

The Ballad of Backbone Joe doesn’t make any deep statements of social commentary or explore thought-provoking issues – but it is inventive and fun.

The Suitcase Royale are a trio of rag ‘n’ bone musicians whose style I would term ‘Louisiana swampy blues’ and their theatrical performances combine their song-writing skills with comedy, slapstick, shadow images and puppetry. The Ballad of Backbone Joe was a dime novel mystery about a boxing match, a dodgy abattoir owner, a girl in a red dress with a sexy voice and a private eye in disguise. The action was all around a single set which served to represent a boxing ring, a dingy hotel room, a lonely bridge and the outback.

The group’s junkyard aesthetic didn’t translate to a ramshackle performance – it was clear that that production had been well-rehearsed, although their ability to improvise when things went wrong were probably the funniest moments in the show. One woman in front room cackled hysterically for the whole hour!

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