Quickfire Lessons From a Master Of The Absurd

08/12/2009 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

Shaun Micallef has never afraid to step into uncharted territory – but this trip down memory lane is a real treat for fans of his style of weird. If you aren’t familiar with the work of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, it’s a great lesson in comedic history. They mark the unique period of cultural revolution that was the late nineteen-sixties, putting out what was probably pretty ballsy material for the time, tackling in absurd style everything from small-talk to censorship, glam rock or the ludicrousness of modern art criticism. There’s only one word fit to describe this show. Silly.

And how gloriously silly it is, with Stephen Curry and Micallef having a great old time with their talented pianist performing this tight set of sketches, musical interludes and stand-up routines. Almost too much fun, the pair ad-libbing to the point where you aren’t sure how much of the show is rehearsed – clearly, 99% of it is scripted – but there’s terrific banter between skits so you sometimes wonder. A couple of times Micallef’s sublime hamminess sent Curry into laughter mid-sketch. Definitely a no-no in ‘straight’ theatre but here it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s there to have fun, and if you take comedy too serious you get it all messed up.

I don’t know if ‘hamminess’ is the right word to describe Micallef’s work as I don’t use it in the traditional sense, but his physical comedy in particular is so brilliant, so over-the-top, I’m lost for words. What he does with a walking stick in the father-and-son scene would make Chaplin proud, and possibly envious! Even so, it’s his straight-man work that cracked me up more. He deadpans with the solemnity of Napoleon’s horse marching to St Petersburg, allowing his partner’s considerable character skills to bloom.

Curry is the perfect working-class foil to Micallef’s self-parodying toff, and they work this dynamic freely, mocking each other, practically competing for laughs (although there’s plenty to go around) and the show’s self-awareness adds another dimension to what could easily slide into trite homage to classic comedy. They inject their own humour into the gags, sometimes using the British accents, sometimes not, (and sometimes inventing new accents altogether). There are a couple of incidental updates for modern Australia to give context where a certain joke might be lost. The skits are well chosen; (I doubt a similar show would work with say Monty Python material) diverse and lively, using classic music-hall techniques like quick costume changes, music cues and the old door-knock. Nostalgia’s always in vogue, for some reason. I wasn’t around for Pete and Dud but there’s a lot of fun to be had here.

Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , .

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

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