Saturday 27 August 2022

PROTEIN - Comedy Review

 WHAT: Protein

WHEN: 25 - 27 August 2022

WHERE: MC Showroom

WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: Darby James

DIRECTED BY: Clary Riven

Darby James

You know what it's like. That day when nothing goes right and everything you touch, see or hear turns into a catastrophe which just keeps piling onto the trauma you are experiencing. Darby James certainly knows what days like that feel like and he tells us all about it in his comedy show Protein at MC Showroom this week.

James has a residency with MC Showroom, hosting a Monday night musical comedy show every week through to December, so it is not surprising to see this show forming a part of the venue's first curated program for 2022. Having said that, Protein stands on it's own two feet as a solid show worthy of audiences. It had me thinking of the work Hannah Gadsby does and that could very well be the highest praise I can give an emerging comedian.

The premise is a simple one. Charlie (James) is a millenial gay man going through an existential crisis as he emerges from lock down, loses his house mate, loses his motivation, loses his fish, and loses his keys. And those are the easy things!

On the night this story begins Charlie has decided to give up pornography and now has to figure out how to fill his time. Desperately searching for real connections he uses the Tinder app but finds himself constantly downloading and then deleting the Grindr app much like the bird which keeps flying into the window where he works. 

One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results (Einstein). Charlie knows this but Protein is the perfect example of how hard the universe works against us in order to prevent us from breaking the cycle. This is why we laugh along with Charlie as life keeps slapping him across the head, but underneath there is also a little twinge of sadness in the realisation this happens to us all. I had a month long dose of it just a month or so ago. We laugh in hindsight, but it is not very funny when you're right in the middle of calamity.

James has a velvety delivery style, gentle and seductive, and I think he would benefit in grasping it as a point of difference in his shows and thinking about that aesthetically. It is very Tony Armstrong in it's impact and could be used to great benefit if James harnesses it effectively.

Having said that, on the night I saw Protein it ended up being a problem because the show, in it's current form, needs to climax and James isn't quite getting there for the punch at the end. It is disappointing that Clary Riven (director) hasn't helped him reach that height because this comedy show has some really important messages and the big one at the end - there is always someone worse off than you - needs to pop to keep it comedic and stop the whole show from ending on a sad note. 

Protein is funny and I laughed a lot despite the slightly missed opportunity at the end. The technical aspects of the show - recorded voices interacting with the performer - work well which is a surprise because this sort of thing usually fails big time and makes most cabaret and comedy shows fall in a heap. 

What is more interesting, perhaps, is the realisation I had the next day which is grasping the plight of the Millenials. Protein tells us the story of a generation who are more willing to put themselves in risky situations through apps and a shallow social scenes rather than go to their parents for help. It also demonstrates the lack of real, deep, connected friendships. 

I am pro social media but Protein is a strong warning about making sure you find ways to truly connect with people around you. Make friendships you can lean on. As funny as this show is, I found myself holding my breath as Charlie headed closer and closer to high risk situations. Charlie was lucky but I can't help wondering how many people have been in this situation and not got off so lightly.

3 Stars

Saturday 6 August 2022

THE MARVELLOUS LIFE OF CARLO GATTI - Theatre Review

 WHAT: The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti

WHEN: 3 - 13 August 2022

WHERE: Theatreworks - Explosives Factory

WRITTEN BY: Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou

DIRECTED BY: Chris Hosking

PERFORMED BY: Connor Dariol, Hayley Edwards, El Kiley, and Shamita Siva

Connor Dariol, El Kiley, and Shamita Siva - photo by Sarah J Clarke

Let's start with trigger warnings which neither the production team nor venue thought were needed for The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti. If you feel you need support after seeing this play please contact Beyond Blue or Lifeline. Next, let's advise that the new Theatreworks venue, Explosives Factory, is not accessible (not even for abled bodied people who are fully sighted  if you count the first step and also the rostra design for the seating bank). There is no stage manager credited which is probably why I just had to do this. Now that we are all safe, I will get on with the review.

Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou is an emerging writer who appears to have a fascination with suicide, based on this work and her published play Loose Teeth. I don't know if this is because she has been touched by this but I felt in The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti this obsession is almost careless.

So a ghost (Connor Dariol), a psychologist (Shamita Siva), and a scientist (El Kiley) walk into a bar... Sorry, wrong play. But seriously, The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti is a science fiction phsychological thriller. It is full of piano playing pigeons and space whales and something called quantum time. You will learn a lot of fun, geeky science facts in this play - including that 42 is a coding space holder (this one is for Douglas Adams fans). Too much? Maybe. I did tune out at the last scientific monologue which might explain why I don't remember what it was about...

The premise of The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti is that a physicist in the 80's who is trying to crack the quantum time equation dies before they get it done. A 19th century pianist ghost tries to change that by bringing the physicist into the same space/time moment as a phsychologist 4o years in the future on the roof of the building they both live(d) in. The thing which allows this to happen is a universal harmonic of loneliness (they will explain this in the play). 

As the play progresses we discover it is a Groundhog Day type story. The Ghost tells us at the start that 'Humanity has a plan', but that it doesn't care about us. This story is for all those people who think they have free will and determine their life outcomes. This story is for all those people who believe in fate, destiny, kismet.

I actually really enjoyed the play and I think Yiannacou is a great writer but there are dramaturgical issues - which is weird because there are two credited dramaturgs! The play is billed at 90 minutes but the run time on opening was almost 2 hours. It should be a 90 minute play. This would be easy to achieve and would create greater audience satisfaction. 

First, some of the science stuff can be edited - especially that last scientific monologue which I zoned out of (sorry, but I can't give more informationt than that). The big change though would be to cut the final 'act'. Strangely, the play bookends about 3/4 of the way in, and then there is a coda. The natural end is a tad cliche but it feels right. The coda only serves to give an unfulfilled hope. This is a dangerous part of the play given it's content. If they want us to viscerally feel disillusion it succeeds but that is a very dangerous sword to wield if you don't have the infrastructure to back that up. 

That final act does give some new information but nothing about it is important to the story. We do get a bit more back story for the Ghost and the Psychologist but none of that materially increases insight. Also, I love a good tilt at subverting expectations but in this case the potential damage is not worth the experiment. No risk assessment or safety plan has even been considered in developing this work.

I will say the performances are great. I felt the cast really ought to be older, but the actors were wonderful and did good, strong work with material that has a depth which is beyond their life experiences so far. I especially love the simplicity and subtlety of Hayley Edwards' performance as a patient of the psychologist. This character is notionally smaller than the other three but is so important to grounding the show to our space/time continuum.

Be careful when you see The Marvellous Life of Carlo Gatti (the title will be explained). It is a good play and extremely well produced but take precautions because it is not a safe space.

3 Stars

THE LONG GAME - Theatre Review

WHAT: The Long Game WHEN: 28 - 13 July 2024 WHERE: TW Explosives Factory WRITTEN BY: Sally Faraday DIRECTED BY: Krystalla Pearce SET BY: Dav...