Comedy Reviews: Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, Jason Geary & Jimmy James Eaton
By Sean Lynch
Jason Geary & Jimmy James Eaton - "Sketch-ual Healing" Theatre
Sketch comedy is a tough racket and, unfairly, judged more harshly than stand up comedy often is. There are more ingredients that need to go into the pot that must work together in order to pull off the entire dish. So to say what Jason Geary & Jimmy James Eaton have created with Sketch-ual Healing is astonishing is an understatement.
The thing that immediately jumps out at you about this show is the flawless physical choreography. The worlds within worlds, the tones and textures of the vistas these two are able to create inside your own mind with simply body movements and sound cues, the seamless weaving back and forth between ideas, it's some of the most impressively executed I've ever seen.
These guys transform into their characters without the aid of costume changes or props and it's this very skill that separates them from the pack.
While the sketch and laugh-per-minute content themselves (as sketches are prone to be) are occasionally hit and miss, the performances, structure and transition elements always manage to keep you utterly engaged. From western adventures, to other worldly dimensions, to classic impression based genre mashups, these guys cover just about everything - making it one of the more interesting and exciting takes on the sketch show I've seen at the Comedy Festival in a long, long, time.
I've been following the progress of Canadian-Australian stand-up comic Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall for a few years now, there's something about his rhythms and unexpected train of thought that's managed to lure me in. His latest show, Trying Hard, is another perfect example of his evolution as a comic (both figuratively and literally).
Tremblay-Birchall unveils the plan from the get go: "This is a collection of comedy bits". No arc, no pathos, no forced whimsy - this is exactly what you've paid to see at a Comedy Festival... a guy telling jokes and trying to make you laugh at those jokes.
There are subtleties and performance nuances at play here that aren't immediately noticeable, but have an incredibly profound effect on the overall tone and flow of the end product. Trying Hard is. in it's own way in an era of popularity for "Anti-Comedy" and "Absurdism", a breath of fresh air. It's the anti-comedy of anti-comedy, and it's rock solid from start to end.
There's stuff for the science geeks, stuff for fans of the one liners, stuff for the stoners and plenty for the comedy nerds (including a bizarre but inspired deconstruction of stand up itself via a Zombie towards shows end).
One of the most consistently funny hour long shows I've seen at the 2013 festival.
Keep An Eye Out For: The Urethra Bit
Faulty Towers - "The Dining Experience" Theatre
The words "Theatre Restaurant" and "Enjoyment" don't usually go hand in hand. It's been the punchline to more than a few gags over the decades. However, with this in mind, I still opted to venture into this strange, weird world of food and fun.
The benefit of Faulty Towers as a dinner theatre performance are two fold: Firstly, the characters within it are already loved, adored and cemented in people's minds (much like a movie franchise sequel, it means you can just jump straight into the fun without having to waste time setting up and introducing and explaining everything). Secondly, the show we know and love existed within the very context you are within... so it never quite feels like a performance as much as it does just some craziness going on around you at a restaurant.
The biggest hurdle a show like this faces is the obvious comparisons to the iconic performances of the original. Luckily, on this night, it worked. The mannerisms of Ron Kelly's "Basil Fawlty" are some of the most impressive I've ever seen, a performance which both pays homage to John Cleese's iconic role while still managing to bring something unique to it.
However, it was the performance of Andy Foreman's "Manuel" on this Comedy Festival leg of the tour that really shone. Outside of simply serving his role to the show itself, purely from a performance point of view, the actor portraying Manuel was just sublime, with an astonishing grasp of how to use his physicality and facial expressions. Being able to see it up close (literally, as he came to our table several times to take meals and return them) just compounded how good he was.
Sure, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is as kitsch as it gets... but if you're a fan, it's an experience like no other.
Keep An Eye Out For: References to Fawlty Towers most iconic episodes.