Do Not Collect $200 Review by John Pendergast
Monash Uni Student Theatre’s (MUST) latest production, Do Not Collect $200, is an immersive theatre experience themed around Monopoly. And when I say immersive, I mean immersive! Which is a fact I may have ‘accidentally’ forgotten to tell the person I took along with me. But once she fortified herself with a G&T, we ended up having an enjoyable and entertaining evening.
As seems to be a common theme among university theatre, Do Not Collect $200 looks at capitalism and how it is corrupting society. The performance is broken up into two stories. The first is an overarching story set around an event run by Hasbro™ for a new game called Monopoly Life. The second is individualised for every audience member as they play the game of Monopoly Life and participate in short experiences throughout the building.
Director Harley Hefford has worked well with his cast to create an experience that, although reliant on the audience taking part, does not put pressure onto the audience to step too far outside their comfort zones. Harley has obviously ensured the cast are not just familiar with all the different elements of the performance, but also with how to deal with audience ranging from eager to participate (possibly cause by alcohol consumption) through to hesitant and non-responsive. The experiences that I ‘purchased’ to participate in using Monopoly money that I earned through the evening were entertaining and engaging. A particular highlight for me was Corporate Yoga, especially when I earned a bonus for dobbing in my workmates for making complaints to HR against the boss.
Requiring a solid ensemble, Do Not Collect $200 certainly pushed the cast to be flexible. It was pleasing to see both the core cast and the ensemble interacting completely within character throughout the entire evening, and also seeing ensemble swapping between different experiences, demonstrating the amount of time and effort they had put in. From the core story cast, there were a few standouts for me. Celina Mack, in her role as Lena, was able to portray the transition of Lina from downtrodden through to self-confident with a consistency. Similarly, Arianna Walley’s performance as the statistician Juliette was consistently high quality throughout. A small moment that occurred for me was when, as part of the game, I was Cancelled (equivalent of being sent to jail). When I went to the location where I had to complete a task to return to the game, Celina and Arianna were having an argument completely in character where there were no audience around so that I walked in on it part way through helping to build the immersive experience of the performance. Meghna Mitra’s Donovan was entertaining, with her rapping being a real highlight. And from the ensemble, the personal standout performance came from Sean Cooke who transitioned between a wide variety of characters.
From a stagecraft perspective, set design and costume were both simple but generally worked to support the cast. Sound was a little inconsistent at times with microphones not always working and background music sometimes being too loud to be able to hear the cast. Given it was opening night, this will hopefully be ironed out throughout the run. Lighting was very simple and usually effective, though there were a few lighting choices that seemed to work against what the cast were doing. Overall, however, I do need to give a big thumbs up to the stage management. Running a show like this would be a logistical nightmare, and the entire evening ran smoothly with no visible hiccups.
As I get to the end of this review, I will make a confession – I’m a huge Monopoly fan. Having collected Monopoly for many years, I have around 200 sets. So, I was really curious to see how MUST would handle working a boardgame into a theatre experience. And I generally wasn’t disappointed. Although there were some times when the show felt a bit slow, particularly towards the end of the final gameplay section when the experiences were all ‘sold out’, I had an enjoyable evening. I did also feel that the final anti-capitalism rant was a little contrived, however it certainly didn’t ruin the night.
So, whether or not you’re a Monopoly fan, if you’re looking for a fun evening out participating in a theatre experience that is completely different to anything you’ve ever done before, I’d definitely recommend Do Not Collect $200.
Set – 3/5
Costume – 3/5
Sound – 3/5
Performances – 3.5/5
Stage management – 4/5
Direction – 3.5/5