2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival Reviews Part 6:
* Barry Morgan’s World of Organs
* Skinny Man, Modern World

Posted on 12 October 2010

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs

My face was genuinely sore from smiling after Barry Morgan’s World of Organs. Stephen Teakle’s alter ego “Barry Morgan” is a real charmer. The show is fun, uplifting, and hilarious.

The concept behind the performance is that Barry is an organ salesman who has been forced to take to the road. The show is apparently a sales pitch for an organ that must go by the end of the evening. Along the way he plays a number of old popular songs, such as Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. With each song he demonstrates a different feature of his organ, or he calls up an audience member to show how easy it is to produce grand sounds with only one finger.

The show evokes all that is cheesy about the 1970s: from Barry’s jungle suit and full moustache to the choice of synthesised sounds on the organ. But it also shows how earnest and ingenuous those times could be. He did play some with the “organ” double entendres, but kept it carefully understated. Barry is not a sleazy character, but one of old-fashioned enthusiasm and sincerity.

Given Stephen’s thoughtful portrayal of this character, he was able to build a beautiful emotional arc through his story. With audience interaction he had people sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for that moment when a few select audience members demonstrated they too could create catchy tunes. When he is then unable to sell his organ, we all feel great sympathy for his plight.

I have to admit, I was sold on buying an organ. Though, I’m already a fan and used to spend quite a bit of time at The Capri Theatre in Adelaide, the home of the Theatre Organ Society. Organs are complex instruments that require considerable skill in order to get full use of their potential. Stephen did an admirable job of getting fully orchestrated and enjoyable tunes pouring out of his Aurora Classic.

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs
was one of my top favourites of the festival this year.

Sammy J in Skinny Man, Modern World

The problem with comedy is that once you have seen a show and heard the jokes, it’s difficult going back to see it again…the surprise is gone. This and Asher Treleaven’s show I went ahead and saw twice in order to better understand what the comedians were doing. A real testament to their skill is that I enjoyed them both times.

Currently, Sammy is hot property. This year with Heath McIvor he won the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Award. I know the majority of comedians performing at the Fringe Festival requested Sammy as a mentor. So, what accounts for his popularity?

We seem to have a generation of people coming into prominence who are tired of cynicism and tired of twee. They want things emotionally real but whimsically fun. TV producers seem to think the more extreme, hedonistic, self-destructive, and transgressive of the previous generation’s ethics, the better. Isn’t that what kids want? I think the kids are recognising this is just suicidal. They are rebelling, but against violent over-throw and a domination culture.

Sammy J’s humour seems to be drawn from his inner twelve year old. He tells us about his school bus pranks, includes a whole poo story, and has a wondrous musical tale about his time as a child with an elderly mermaid. And yet…he is drawing on the vulnerability and unaffected humour of youth while presenting some hard-won adult truths about fear, survival, loss, and love.

Upon occasion I get told I should be doing children’s shows because my style of humour is more on the whacky and absurd side. For me it’s about calling people back to qualities they discarded, believing they belonged to childhood, when really they belong to all of us for all time: wonder, fun, engagement. Sammy dips into this pot of good honey as well.

Skinny Man, Modern World is a delightful hour of finding your own inner clown. Go see it.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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