James Bond is one of the most iconic characters in modern popular culture. Whether it's Sean Connery sitting enigmatically at a casino table with cigarette in the corner of his mouth, Roger Moore in flares crossing a river on the back of a convenient line of crocodiles or Daniel Craig reviving the corpse of the British empire in his battles with grim-faced Russian mafia types, we all know - and probably even love, against our better instincts, Ian Fleming's over-sexed secret agent. While the Bond films are never far from our screens, four local performers have come together to feature the most exciting, amusing and painful moments of the Bond films in a one hour performance.
Bond-A-Rama! was conceived originally by Newstopia writer and performer Michael Ward. Ward approached Stephen Hall (The Halloween), Emily Taheny (Comedy Inc) and local comedian Lawrence Mooney with the potentially far-flung idea of a one-hour performance featuring the entire catalogue of (official) James Bond films. The performers toyed with the most appropriate way to cover the films; a chronological progression was considered early, and quickly discarded. "We had detailed discussions about the best way to approach the films," Hall says. "We thought about doing it chronologically, but we decided against that. Some of the films are obviously better than the others, so the way we've put them together allows us to use the best bits from each film," he says.
Hall, whose first Bond film experience was seeing Moonraker upon its release in 1979, says Bond-A-Rama! indulges the classic elements of the Bond cinematic canon: gadgets, slick dialogue and classic scenes. "We feature scenes like Ursula Andress coming out of the water, and the parachute fight," Hall says. While the Bond films has provided its fair share of iconic female characters - Pussy Galore, Miss Moneypenny and even Judy Dench's post-feminist M - it's arguable that most female parts have been largely two-dimensional (think Jill St John in Diamonds Are Forever - or maybe even Bambi and Thumper in the same film). Hall says Emily Taheny has taken the lack of character depth in her stride. "A lot of the Russian girls do seem a bit similar, so you can almost merge them into one," Hall says. "But we do feature other great female characters, like Grace Jones in View to a Kill."
In preparing the show, Hall and his fellow performers immersed themselves in the Bond film catalogue, cramming bits of Bond cinema trivia during late night DVD sessions. "There's lots of interesting stories that you find out," Hall says. "And there's also some interesting behind the scenes facts you find out - like the corkscrew jump in The Man With the Golden Gun, which was one of the first computer generated stunt. And then they had to go and ruin it by accompanying the scene with a slide whistle!" Hall laughs.
Bond-A-Rama also features its own specially commissioned theme song, as well as grabs from the various title songs ("used under APRA conditions," Hall explains). As someone who spent his teenage years in the 1980s, Hall admits to being a particular fan of Duran Duran's View to A Kill ("it's the best thing about the film") - as risking embarrassment by defending A-Ha's oft-lambasted take on the Living Daylights ("I think I'm a bit Robinson Crusoe in that respect".
Hall describes Bond-A-Rama! as an "affectionate tribute", balancing celebration with irony and plenty of gags. Hall freely acknowledges that the Bond films paint a very misleading political and cultural landscape. Take, for example, the image of the casino, inhabited by debonair men in closely cut suits. "I remember when Crown Casino first came," Hall says. "I thought it'd be like Monte Carlo, but it was more like Frankston," he laughs. Or the suggestion that England - despite the end of its colonial empire - remains a world super power. "I think it's comforting to English people to see England portrayed like that, despite what they see around them in real life," Hall says.
In recent years Bond has undergone something of a personal and political metamorphosis, his sexual activities no longer akin to a wild rabbit, and his social attitudes dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. If James Bond had aged consistently with his 50 years on screen, what would he be like? Hall paints a tragic, but realistic picture of the 80 year old James Bond. "His liver would be shot, he'd have lung cancer and probably osteoporosis as well - but he'd definitely have some stories to tell," Hall laughs.
Bond-A-Rama! takes over Chapel Off Chapel from Wednesday August 3 until Sunday August 21. For times and tickets visit chapeloffchapel.com.au