2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival:
• Simon Taylor in Ten Things I Know About You
• Peter and Paisley Present Two Knights Only

Posted on 10 October 2011

Simon Taylor in Ten Things I Know About You

I feel lucky to have caught the shows I did this year at Fringe. I always find something to enjoy; this year’s festival managed to attract several particularly exceptional works. Simon’s Ten Things was amongst these.

Ten Things I Know About You plays with psychology, language, life-skills, and relationships. With dollops of creamy science, we are also served sprinklings of emotional insight, coated in a complex sauce of performance skills.

I enjoyed the fact that this was an intelligent show without being condescending. I find it a delight and a relief when science is presented with a sense of wonder, rather than as a blunt object used to scold naughty children. Simon’s myth time segments were both amusing and enlightening. Though, perhaps a little explanation might have given them more impact. Why did we once believe that people used only 10% of their brains? How much do we actually use?

I enjoyed the stories and characters Simon built to demonstrate points about morality, attraction, and inconsistency. His vignette about dealing with street-side car window washers rang true, and demonstrated how we could be both moral and immoral in a single situation. Funnier still was his portrayal of a barista breaking down due to choice overload.

I enjoyed the smooth skill and professionalism he brought to every element of his performance. His dancing was of a fine calibre and kept the show energy high. His spoken word rant about language would fly at any poetry slam. His magic skills were easily of television quality. His electric guitar playing, singing, and original songs were well executed. Perhaps most memorable was his ditty about the psycho-biological reasons for why we fall in love…the punchline to which delivered his biggest laugh of the evening.

Previously, Simon Taylor had been performing as a magician. I’m glad he shifted to comedy. He has a lot more to say about life than perhaps a magic show could encompass. He also has a lot more creativity than could be stuffed into a single skill-set. Sometimes when a show is a little too slick and the performer a little too self-assured, the warmth is sucked out and it loses appeal. Simon brings empathy and understanding to his work, giving it depth.

Ten Things I know About You is of international quality and needs to be taken to Edinburgh Fringe and from there to London. Even though Simon could make money on cruise ships, I would be happier seeing him tour as a stage show to many cities. New York Fringe would have him, Montreal and San Francisco would love him.

This is something I wrote in my journal in response to the show and a conversation I heard with an audience member afterward.

Hold your skepticism lightly, so that it doesn’t slip into cynicism. Instead, cast a discerning eye at all people, recognising that no one has a corner on truth, nor is utterly devoid of truth—rather we all partake in the uncertainty of humanity. Most importantly, though you may find evolutionary, biological, and chemical reasons for kindness, it is still a real thing. In a world where we will all have to face pain and grief, kindness helps hold our lives together.

Peter and Paisley Present Two Knights Only

Melbourne Fringe is all about new creators testing their wings. Not everything is going to be stellar, but creators get the chance to create, be seen, and learn. I love the richness of creativity that goes on at this level. My blog would probably gain more attention if I focussed primarily on the big name comedians, and certainly these are people from whom we want to learn. But it is so exciting discovering and nurturing new talent. I must be a hipster at heart.

Peter Hayward and Sean Collins, the creator/performers of Peter and Paisley Present Two Knights Only, show a lot of raw energy and raw talent. They demonstrate depths of inspiration in generating one interesting unique idea after another, after another.

Their show is about a pair of knights who must engage in a tournament so as to win the hand of a princess, thereby saving the kingdom from the clutches of an evil baron. With this basic structure in place they then fill in the gaps with improvisation and audience interaction.

They were wise to give themselves clear building blocks for their comedy. One show I caught this festival did not give themselves a safety net of this sort, and floundered badly. Peter and Sean did flounder at points, but were always able to work their way back to the story spine, keeping the energy of their show moving along.

Also good was their smooth accepting of “offers” from one another. When Peter came up with an idea on stage, Sean would take that idea and build upon it. Peter would then act on any additions Sean made. And so on, back and forth. This is the core of first-rate improvisation.

Our culture is used to experiencing only finished products and doesn’t often engage in process. Worse, manufacturers have convinced people that owning tools is the equivalent to having any talent or skill. This makes it difficult when young people see performers such as The Pajama Men and assume these guys are doing their improvisation strictly off the cuff.

The finest improvisers have years of practise behind them. Many have learned their techniques from Keith Johnstone’s TheatreSports. It may look like these people are pulling stories from thin air, and in part they are, they also have a performance toolbox in their head that ensures they will usually come up with something coherent and entertaining.

For a first time out Sean and Peter did an admirable job. The audience was behind them and laughing along with their jokes. They also need to learn how to effectively direct their energy in order to lift their performance. The two of them have chemistry and charisma. They have a vibe somewhere between Lano & Woodley and The Mighty Boosh.

I would strongly suggest Peter and Sean seek out mentors. They have what it takes to build up a comedy career. If they feel improvising is their thing, then they should take up TheatreSports courses. If they are interested in pursuing more scripted works, speak to me. I was a university lecturer and post-graduate supervisor in creative writing for seven years and just happen to be in the wild again. Besides, I think you owe me a cup of tea for spilling red wine on my favourite cream corduroy pants.

Finally, performers shouldn’t let reviews on a first show daunt them. Peter and Paisley Presents received another review that I wish I could have helped negate sooner. You are learning. You are lucky to be receiving reviews at this stage in your career. Personally, I believe that it’s irresponsible journalism to stick the boot into new performers, particularly in a venue meant to incubate beginning talent. Having seen many shows at Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festival, yours was genuinely an impressive first go.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


3 responses to 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival:
• Simon Taylor in Ten Things I Know About You
• Peter and Paisley Present Two Knights Only

  • […] “Ten Things I Know About You is of international quality and needs to be taken to Edinburgh F…Katherine Phelps […]

  • Simon Taylor says:

    Dear Katherine Phelps

    This coming Sunday I will be flown to Sydney to compete in the National Final of the Australian Poetry Slam. With a legitimate sense of shock, I received this prize as a result of winning the Victorian State Final last Friday.

    I made the spontaneous decision to enter the competition based on this sentence from your review: “His spoken word rant about language would fly at any poetry slam.”

    Without those twelve words, in that order, I wouldn’t have even thought to do so. You are the catalyst of my new adventure.

    Thanks for being more than a good reviewer; thanks for being an inspiring one.

    x

    • Katherine says:

      AWESOME! Do keep me updated as to how you go at the National Final. Let me know if it’s broadcast or multicast online, I would enjoy barracking for you.

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