Mantaur is a duo made up of Sydney performers Rob Johnson and Harry Milas.
“We met doing musicals at Sydney Uni, which led into Theatresports, Arts Revue, long form impro,” Johnson tells Theatre People.
“And we really enjoyed working together, so we made it official at the 2013 Sydney Fringe Festival with our first show as a duo,” Milas adds.
Since then, Mantaur has performed at several Fringe shows, has twice been named NSW Theatresports champions, and produced the ensemble sketch show Fat On Purpose at Sydney’s Giant Dwarf.
Tomorrow night, Mantaur will take the stage at Harold Park Hotel in Glebe alongside Becky Lucas, Sarah Gaul, Jack Gow, Madeleine Culp and Cyrus Bezyan for Harold’s Hoo-Haa, a one-night comedy extravaganza that has been put together in the name of supporting independent theatre.
Johnson talks about how important a part of Sydney’s theatre landscape he believes independent theatre has become.
“I think it’s incredibly important,” he says. “The best work in Sydney is being done at the Old Fitz, the Kings Cross Theatre, [and] the Hayes. Independent theatres and theatre companies are telling more diverse and more dangerous stories, and they’re allowing a wider array of artists to cut their teeth and put their feet down. The enduring strength of Griffin Independent and the fact that Belvoir has just started their 25A program is testament to the vitality of independent theatre in Sydney.”
Milas highlights a major challenge with which independent productions are usually confronted.
“It’s always nice to have more money, of course – “independent” can sometimes be synonymous with scrounging and the stress of putting an entire show up on your own with no time or money,” he says, “which is why events like Harold’s Hoo-Haa are exciting to be a part of: we’re helping an exciting independent show get up!”
Ticket sales from Harold’s Hoo-Haa will be shared between the performers and the Australian premiere of New Ghosts Theatre Company’s Yen, which will open at Kings Cross Theatre in September.
Mantaur was invited to perform at Harold’s Hoo-Haa by New Ghosts Theatre Company’s Loredana Cross, who Johnson and Milas knew from their university days.
“It’s quite inspiring that so many people who we met at USyd are now working in the industry and committed to doing great work,” Milas says.
Later on this month, Mantaur will appear at the Old Fitz Theatre in their own independent theatre piece, The Recidivists.
“The Recidivists is ostensibly a sketch show, though it’s also sort of a cabaret,” says Milas. “with magic and strong horror elements.”
“It’s essentially about being caught in a rut, or a cycle, and continually making the same mistakes even though you know what the outcome will be,” Johnson says.
“And why sometimes that seems like an attractive option,” Milas adds.
The duo wrote and performed a version of The Recidivists for the 2014 Sydney Fringe Festival but, since that time, it’s been almost entirely rewritten.
“It had some central ideas that we were very intrigued by, and that our audiences seemed to like, and we’ve always intended to come back and explore those ideas with a bit more purpose,” Milas says.
“It’s very easy to make the show sound totally dark, but it is absolutely a comedy. A lot of the stuff in it is ridiculous.”
Right now, however, Mantaur is gearing up for Harold’s Hoo-Haa. So, what can audiences expect at Harold’s Park Hotel this Sunday night?
“To laugh. A lot. And loudly,” Milas says.
“Look at the line-up – it’s an incredibly talented, hilarious and diverse group. In fact, you might get hurt by how amused you are,” says Johnson.
He’s particularly excited to see Sarah Gaul.
“I’ve been in awe of Sarah since I saw her in the final of the Sydney International Cabaret Competition in 2014,” he says. “She was in our cast for Fat On Purpose and was such a joy to work with. At one point she played a famous pianist with no hands who guilts people into giving her accolades.”
“She’s just come back from a stint in the States”, Milas adds, “so it will be a nice little reunion.”
But Johnson also emphasises the wealth of talent sharing the bill.
“This line-up is spectacular,” he says.
And who should come along to be a part of this evening?
“If you support the creation of exciting work from young Australian artists, and you’d like to see independent theatre in Sydney continue to thrive, coming to this event is an excellent way to contribute to that,” says Milas.
“It’s also going to be a very fun, funny, chilled affair featuring a maelstrom of comedic talent,” Johnson says. “With Jen Carnovale at the helm, it could be the cherry on top of the greatest Sunday sesh of your life.”
HAROLD’S HOO-HAA – EVENT DETAILS
Venue: Harold Park Hotel (70A Ross Street, Glebe)
Date and time: Sunday 15 July, 2018 – 6:30pm
Tickets: $20 – $25