PROTEIN - Comedy Review
WHEN: 25 - 27 August 2022
WHERE: MC Showroom
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: Darby James
DIRECTED BY: Clary Riven
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.