Monday, 22 July 2019

Kevin Peterson's Stand-up Show! - Theatre Review

What: Kevin Peterson's Stand-Up Show!
When: 22 - 27 July 2019
Where: Upstairs, The Butterfly Club
Written and directed by: Max Paton
Composed by: Philip Dallas
Performed by: Stuart Anderson, Catherine Holder, Daniel Hurst, Fraser Mitchell, and Isabella Octigan
Designed by: Jeremy Pryles
Lighting by: John Collopy
Fraser Mitchell and Stuart Anderson - photo by Julia Kaddatz
I had the best surprise of  my life last night when I went to see Kevin Peterson's Stand-Up Show! at The Butterfly Club. Betrayed by the title, I turned up expecting to see a good, but traditional hour of stand up comedy in a town overflowing with such stuff. Instead I was entertained with an hour of fun-filled surrealist theatre which made me laugh in spite of myself.

Kevin Peterson (Mitchell) is a Millennial who is doing a theatre making undergraduate degree. He duly apologises to his parents and mocks his own art, describing  theatre's relationship to the world as akin to "a bedroom to a teenager." This is perhaps the first hint the show is going to be more than meets the eye if you are paying attention.

In fact, if I had been paying proper attention I would have realised a whole lot earlier with the appearane of Peterson's best friend, Ivy (Holder). Still, even if you are not fully cognizant to what is happening don't despair because eventually it will hit you in the face...er...brain as the mind bending takes hold and all objective reality ceases to exist.

Kevin Peterson's Stand-Up Show! is about anxiety. Peterson takes the stage to perform his first stand up show ever and, over the course of the very bad and genetalia obsessed puns, enters a kind of cognitive dissonance as Anxi-tee (Anderson) takes over.

His friends pop in and try to cheer him up and cajole him out of his funk but he sinks deeper and deeper into a riotous horror world of plastic lobsters, humiliating game shows, and floating t-shirts. Surrounded by the fame-filled world of Chris's and a pathological revulsion to Ben Shapiro, Peterson finally admits to needing medical assistance to find his way back to a world which makes some sense.

Perhaps my biggest issue is with the moral of the piece which is "perception is not reality". In a post truth world perception absolutely is reality - as our very recent election cycle has proven. However in a post truth world both objective reality and subjective reality coexist and the challenge for us all (and Peterson in particular) is to find that sweet spot where we can deal with both productively.

Paton has written a play which deals with an important topic and has done so cleverly and with heart. Dallas' sound design really sets the tone, mood and journey though, cleverly augmented by Collopy's lighting design. I admit, this is the best use of the lighting at The  Butterfly Club I think I have ever seen.

The performances are great. The whole cast formed a great ensemble, but I did really enjoy Anderson's insanity, and Octigan has a mesmerising physical precision. Hurst and Holder are absolutely bursting with energy and keep the whirlwind spinning around a hapless Mitchell.

Surrealism seems to really be taking Melbourne by storm and it excites me as much as it raises a niggle of concern. What are we reacting to which makes us want to re-enter an expression of confusion and cognitive dissonance. What is happening in the world which is mirroring this time last century? How afraid should we be?

Back to lighter things though. Kevin Peterson's Stand-Up Show! is a funny and frolicking take on a condition we have probably all experienced at some point - although some worse than others. Regardless of whether your experiences are mild, acute or chronic you will get a laugh and if you have a friend with this problem it may also help you to develop an understanding of what is happening to them. It is a great hour of theatre (and nice and early so you won't be out late in this cold weather).

3.5 Stars

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