Before Us
  • By Kyung Oh
  • |
  • 31st Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

Stuart Bowden has fashioned his costume out of a lime-green sleeping bag, which becomes baggy and puffy like an emptied out bean bag around his body. With long green woolly socks up to his shins, he trundles around the stage with the appearance of a ladybug standing on its skinny hind legs. It is an odd look he has: even when he is walking, he gives off the air of a caterpillar crawling. He introduces himself as a female creature unknown to humans, and is the last surviving member of her species.

The slow second half does pay off in a spectacular climax at the end of the show.

The show consists of episodes that the creature has over several nights (she is nocturnal). She sings us a song about first meeting her boyfriend at a lake (before he died). One night, after walking through the forest, she hears bossa nova music playing in the distance and, upon investigating, finds a party taking place in a mysterious building.

The presentation of the show is as whimsical as the narratives. Bowden constantly walks to the side of the stage, dragging his feet, where he has set up a lo-fi casio keyboard, a banjo, some looping pedals, and a microphone. He plays simple beats on his keyboard that sound like they are from an 80s video game, which, alongside his singing, get played back to us through the speakers in a loop. The overlaying of simple tunes that he plays and hums create impressive and complex sounds.

The sheer oddity of this character creates a lot of laughs from the audience, but the successful comedy bits are more heavily concentrated in the first half of the show. After the bizarre facial twitches and insect-like bodily movements wane, the intrigue of the creature wears off also. The central episode that takes place in the party warehouse begins to feel gratuitously drawn out at times, and it requires some patience to sit through the song about the creature’s mother, whom she sees in the mirror.

The slow second half does pay off in a spectacular climax at the end of the show. The audience is brought on stage, singing, and the sudden transformation of Bowden’s costume is a hilarious reveal that also brings the earlier parts of the show - as well as the whole crowd - together. Before Us is a bizarre, surreal show which somehow manages to stay coherent with itself.

Reviews by Kyung Oh

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The Blurb

From the internationally acclaimed master of lo-fi, off-beat storytelling, Stuart Bowden returns with his latest invention, a surreal, raucous, contemporary, lo-fi, Casio keyboard operetta. An exuberant physical comedy, storytelling whirlwind. From the multi award-winning maker of She Was Probably Not A Robot, The Beast, The World Holds Everyone Apart, Apart From Us, Doctor Brown and His Singing Tiger and The Lounge Room Confabulators. Winner of Adelaide Fringe Theatre Award. **** ‘Gorgeous notes of melancholia’ (Scotsman). ***** ‘Phenomenal one-man wonder show’ ( ***** ‘Utterly compelling’ (

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