Adelaide, as the Fringe and the Festival battle it out for your ticket money, is a tale of two cities. Should you take the highbrow? Or should you take the lowbrow?
Well, for many that choice to comes down to a question of balance. And George Dimarelos’ A Bookish Comedy Show, whilst bravely trying to offer something that will appeal to both tribes, doesn’t quite get the balance right.
Having a show loosely based around literary jokes during Book Week seems like a pretty brave thing to do. There is always the distinct possibility that your audience will include a fair proportion of book snobs, and, if you are aiming for a degree of audience participation, you probably should expect some intellectual grandstanding from the punters in attendance.
This was certainly true on opening night, where in an attempt to ascertain Adelaide’s favourite book, the titles offered up by the audience were so diverse – and often pompously obscure and chosen solely for gaining one-upmanship cred points – that no real consensus could be possible. Daimlers also seemed bewildered by some of the choices, suggesting he is not in any way a master of his chosen subject either.
Dimarelos has the framework of an interesting show here. It includes interactive phone quizzes, slide shows and a roster of guest comics which give the whole thing a sense of variety. But, at its core, the advertised selling point was literature, and there just was not enough comedy built around books to fully satisfy the bibliophiles who had closed their tomes briefly to venture away from their armchairs to attend this event.
Young comics, Aidan Jones & Lewis Garnham, tried hard to connect with the audience but both performed routines that had little direct connection to the topic of literature.
Jones did read a passage from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four as a precursor to a confessional rant about being unfaithful to a French girlfriend. It was an uncomfortable piece of comedy which did not really warm you to the storyteller. He was attempting to sell himself as worldly yet it was clear he has yet to undertake the getting of wisdom which will provide his comedy with the necessary poignancy to hit the tragic-comic nerve he was aiming for.
Garnham, knocked slightly off his game by the unexpected sight of his Year 12 English teacher sitting in the audience, had the best comic timing of the three performers, but he initially deflected his spiel into the realm of popular song lyrics, arguing that these have qualify as literature too, before drifting into a surrealistic rant about why he did not finish his university education.
Overall, this show is based on some potentially good ideas waiting to grow and develop – a little bit like its enthusiastic young presenters – but at the moment it lacks edge and depth.
A Bookish Comedy Show doesn’t deserve its own page in a future chapter on the Adelaide Fringe’s greatest comedy shows ever, but it does have a couple memorable lines that may make the footnotes.
By: Ken Grady
Rating: 2 1/2 stars
A Bookish Comedy Show is being performed in The Atrium, at the Cafe Outside The Square, 34 Whitmore Square on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 March at 7:30pm
Tickets are available here: Bookish Comedy