A good crack at absurdist sketch comedy, this piece from Australian company 7blue is good fun and at times bitingly clever, the puns and witticisms are nineteen to the dozen, but falls flat at several key moments.
There was so much to love about this show. The jokes, the jokes, the jokes.
We meet our three performers after Surfer Alan (Jack Versace) is reprimanded for allegedly stealing lamingtons from chain supermarket BlahMart. We follow Alan from the supermarket, to his police interview before moving onto the ‘restorative’ justice system. First he comes face-to-face with his the man he allegedly stole from, then to the army, a physiatrist and even a director. For anyone familiar with Officer Krupke from West Side Story the plot follows a very similar conceptual bent. He’s told to confess, to atone, to throw himself to the mercy of the CEO of BlahMart, to write a self-help book, become a door-to-door salesman, admit he hates himself, shoot a flock of ducks and ‘feel’ more – all in the space of 50 minutes. The pace of this show is staggering, and to the credit of the three actors involved they hardly let it slide, the exertion obvious on their faces.
There was so much to love about this show. The jokes, the jokes, the jokes. The jokes were absolutely outstanding – quicker than quick – we’d already have moved forward another five or six puns before I’d fully clocked the first. The script is clever, it moves along in a logical progression. It’s sketch comedy in the loosest sense as it has such a strong narrative. The company bill themselves as Python-esque and this is a very apt description; it has all the trappings of a classic Monty Python film – absurdist, delightfully ridiculous and delicious in its simplicity. The gag about Jesus, the door-to-door salesman who built the very doors he knocked on, had me giggling for hours. The use of props was clever, often funny, always purposefully. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the build up of ‘rubbish’ on the stage from each subsequent scene and performance created this visible narrative of where we had been in the story and added to the chaotic nature of the piece.
Unfortunately, however, the piece is let down by some almost-but-not-quite performances. Alongside Surfer Alan we have a male-female duo (Myles Horton & Andie Coulson) who multi-role the rest of the characters. It was clear Coulson was working hard and kept pace well enough, but her delivery let down the very strong script. Her performance as the psychiatrist was hysterical, but not in the funny sense of the word. There wasn’t much natural about Coulson’s delivery of the jokes and it felt very staged. Jack Versace on the other hand managed to really embody the stereotypical surfer dude, caught up in a system he couldn’t possibly hope to understand, and was entirely believable when sat down on a chair and was ‘chilled.’ However, every time a section required energy and movement Versace failed to keep up with the pace, and again it felt a little over-rehearsed.
On the other hand completely was Horton’s performance. Magnificent from start to finish, his energy and physicality was absolutely fantastic. Perhaps the jokes came more naturally to him as the scriptwriter, but regardless his performance was captivating from the very beginning to the final scenes. He seemed to slide so naturally into the gags, both physical and verbal, that you didn’t see it coming until it was long-gone.
All together this is show that could perhaps do with a little less rehearsal and little more fun. If the cast can come together and shake out all the stiffness that at times crowded a delightful script then I can imagine this show will be on the up-and-up for the duration of its run.