28 March 2010

Guest Reviewer: Andrew McClelland's ... Roman Empire

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL 2010
Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of the Fall of the Roman Empire
27 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall Lunch Room

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)


Just like clothing and venereal diseases, comedy is also affected by fashion. Something that seems new and exciting this year may well be ubiquitous the next, but even the overlying tone can be noticeably changable. Some years it’s blokes doing bloke humour (even the sheilas), other years are edgy and political, and the popularity of surrealism comes and goes on a regular cycle.

Last year comedy impresario Janet McLeod appeared on The Outland Institute radio show to discuss a trend she called “The New Niceness”. People were getting tired of shocking/offensive/gratuitous humour and were looking for something gentler. This year, for example, sees Sammy J, Tim Key and Josie Long all doing well, and Spicks & Specks continues to be a powerhouse for the ABC, driven by The Axis Of Adorable: Alan Brough, Myf Warhurst and Adam Hills.

This isn’t to say these comedians are lightweight, or sanitised in any way (Tim Key has a superb joke in his show featuring the “c” word, for example, but even that is more a play on the language of manners). It’s just that not every comedian now feels the need to treat the stage like it’s sodden with beer and they’re warming up before the Angels tribute band come on.

Which brings us to Andrew McClelland.

Andrew McClelland is nice. Brilliantly nice. Charmingly, engagingly nice and very funny to boot. His shows (whether by himself or with occasional co-conspirator Lawrence Leung) tend to take a theme and then explore it thoroughly, whether that be pirates, secret societies, or how to make the perfect mix tape. His newest show, Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of the Fall of the Roman Empire is – unsurprisingly – about the Roman Empire. But it’s really about the Roman Empire. You will be amused, you will be entertained, but you’ll also be educated. McClelland knows his stuff, even asking the audience at one point to shout out names of Roman Emperors so he can share trivia about them, possibly the least hardcore thing you will see on a stage all year.

It’s a fast paced show, McClelland’s enthusiasm is always infectious, and this year he’s even brought some effects pedals with him. A historical theme plays to McClelland’s strengths as there’s always been something intriguingly out-of-time about him – he’s like an Edwardian gent who constructed a time-travel cabinet and is so excited to be visiting this land of the future. With his love of knowledge, wide-eyed eagerness and slightly camp persona he’s reminiscent of old-school Doctor Who (before it became all about kissing and EastEnders references).

A warning, there is audience participation – this reviewer was dragged out of his seat and instructed to stab Caesar to death with a shoehorn – so perhaps sit further back if you want to avoid that.

If you like your comedy erudite and slightly cuddly, Andrew McClelland is the man for you.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

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