2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival:
• Michael Workman—War
Posted on 16 April 2014
Michael Workman is an artist and a comedian. Snobs may like some artists, but that doesn’t mean those artists are snobs. Workman has a magical ability to create vivid and intricate worlds with his words, drawings, and music. These worlds are rich in human emotion and compassion. If you enjoy being moved, as I do, you go to a Workman show. I also enjoy a laugh, because laughter is an important part of being human. If you enjoy a laugh, it’s also worth going to a Workman show. Snobs aren’t good at recognising that joy has value too.
Workman’s shows Humans Are Beautiful, Mercy, and Ave Loretta were all deeply poignant. Creating intense works isn’t as easy as just watching them for an hour or two. Artists have to live with the pain of their characters for however long it takes to create and perform them. That’s hard work. This year Workman chose to perform a show called War, which could have potentially been his darkest outing yet.
War is about a morphine addicted journalist who is reporting on a very strange war without obvious victims. A bomb has gone off which obliterated everyone’s dreams. While Workman is weaving this story he meanders into a number of asides about his life. Despite the heavy concept, this is one of Workman’s lighter shows. He reminds us that he is indeed a standup comic as well, and is a deft hand at absurd humour.
We don’t get as much character development in War. Nevertheless, Workman is hammering home some very good points about how atomised we have become, how we no longer trust one another, and how we let others do our dreaming for us. There’s a difference between sadness and despair, and the subjects he covers could easily lend themselves to despair. As such I believe he was right in choosing a light touch.
I would have liked a little more story to back up the journalist’s adventures. This was still a wonderful evening. I was pleased to see more of Michael Workman’s creative explorations. I really wish our government had a national treasure award, where certain people are just given a living wage in gratitude for their contributions and thereby make more of their art possible. Michael Workman would be one of the people deserving of this award.
Peace and kindness,