I honestly do not have the words to accurately describe the spectacle that is Gouti: The God of Them All. A two-hour long combination of musical comedy and absurdist theatre, Gouti (pronounced GOO-TEE) is a strange, boisterous adventure among the mythical Spanish gods. It’s as charming as it is peculiar, and probably broaches some sincere issues to do with human eccentricity – but I just can’t be sure.
Performed at The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond, in a cramped, cement space (which is actually cosier that it sounds), Gouti’s cast members outnumbered the audience on the evening I attended (other nights were sold out, though). Despite the scale and flamboyance of the show, the intimate setting played to its advantage, heightening its melodrama and absurdism tenfold. It also allowed for close admiration of the array of crude and colourful costumes. Gouti was written, composed and starred in by VCA graduate Joachim Coghlan. The show was originally presented as part of Melbourne Uni’s Mudfest in 2011. Back then though, it comprised a mere single act. In its current manifestation, the story spreads across three increasingly farcical parts. In the first we meet El Todopoderoso (Christopher Nye), also known as The God of Them All, in his school for nursery rhyme composition in Spain. Little Juan (Coghlan) is El Todopoderoso’s prized student, and all is well amongst the gods. That is until Gouti (Emily Brown) shows up with her raucously uncouth verses to usurp not only Little Juan’s rank but also his wife Anita Bonita Maraca Alpaca (Jessica Harris), and becomes co-God of Them All at the insistence of El Todopoderoso (or something to that effect).
Following an odd battle in which Gouti and Little Juan each summon the protagonists of their rhymes, respectively the Triple-Breasted Whore and a giant spider named Pepito (both marvellously constructed puppets), and let them battle it out like Pokémon, Little Juan is banished to New Zealand for the second act. There he meets Tharbor and Aranel (James Brooks & Holly Sharpe), who suspiciously resemble certain elfin characters from Lord of the Rings, and their friend Guimo (Christian Gillett), who happens to be the New Zealand God of Them All and Gouti’s twin brother.
After a further hour-and-a-half of baffling absurdity, striking operatic composition, anarchic dance breaks and impossible subplots, Little Juan and Guimo eventually return to Spain to resolve their differences with The God(s?) of Them All in the only partially-scripted third act, and they all live happily ever after – except for Little Juan, who is tragically killed.
Scattered with references not only to Lord of the Rings and Pokémon but also Sweeney Todd, Avatar, The Princess Bride, Wicked (The Musical) and countless other anomalous pop culture fixtures, Gouti is tremendously postmodern. But its interactivity and constant self-reflexivity don’t distract from the sheer talent of the cast. There is more than one set of remarkable, classically trained vocal chords among the ensemble, with special mentions going to Nye, Harris, Gillett and Sharpe. Similarly, the small orchestra, comprised of a piano, a saxophone, a flute, a guitar and an accordion, offers a rather impressively composed addition.
My overall opinion of the show is quashed somewhat by the fact that I still haven’t quite figured out what exactly I witnessed, but I did leave with a head sore from befuddlement and a stomach sore from laughter, which I suppose can only be a nod toward Gouti’s narrative complexity and comedic triumph. (Image: Raquel Betiz)