One of the strangest Fringe shows of recent memory is A Young Man Dressed as a Gorilla Dressed as an Old Man Sits Rocking in a Rocking Chair for 56 Minutes and Then Leaves – a show that does exactly what it says on the tin. Depending on how you look at it, it's either a fantastic experience or an insufferably boring 56 minutes. The Preacher is somewhere along those lines.
a bizarre 55 minutes
The Preacher is officially described as “a digital theatre performance of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes framed as a stand-up comedy show”. Even after reading that a few times, I didn’t know what to expect. After watching it, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I would say the show is comparable to Moses announcing The Ten Commandments in a tight five.
It's worth noting that although this is standup, it’s not a comedy show. If you’re looking for an hour of laughs, you won’t find it here. This is a piece of theatre in which a character, David ‘Dave’ Davidson, performs a show. Much of this ‘show within a show’ isn't particularly funny and wouldn’t go down well in a comedy club. Given it’s literally a retelling of a book in the Bible, I’m not sure it’s supposed to. Some other reviews have judged it as a comedy set, which I don’t think was the intended idea.
It is expertly crafted. Conceived during lockdown in Australia, Anthony Noack's 'set' is his own combination of the King James Bible and “new translations based on contemporary speech”. Noack is no stranger to the comedy industry, having been a producer at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, so he knows his stuff and it shows. The set begins with a few quick gags and broad jokes. It’s charming and innocent, but we’re caught off guard when, in the next breath, he speaks about feelings of “complete and utter hopelessness”, retaining the same boyish charm and cheeky grin. It’s unsettling yet intriguing, reminding me of the lull when the majority of standup comedians decide to get serious. Noack then continues with Ecclesiastes, taking breaks to sip wine, make fart noises, and make a few more general gags.
Judging by Noack’s ‘show within a show’, perhaps comedy isn't his calling. However, it takes great skill to perform in an intentionally amateurish way, so Noack deserves praise for that. I’m somewhat torn about the overall presentation. Noack certainly has a “cool Sunday School teacher” approach, so much so he could probably aim this show at kids as a trendy way to learn about the Bible.
I’m not a religious person, so the material wasn’t up my alley and I couldn’t quite connect with it. Then again, that’s not the point. For a general crowd looking for standup comedy, this is more miss than hit. For those willing to delve deeper into what is trying to be achieved, there is something to like in there.
The Preacher confused me a lot. Like the Gorilla show, it’s a marmite experience. It’s certainly a bizarre 55 minutes, but that’s what Fringe is all about. Did I enjoy it? I still don’t know, but I definitely appreciated what it was trying to accomplish. I am still thinking about it days later, and not a lot of Fringe shows have that effect on me.