Sammy J In The Forest Of Dreams: 2008 Melbourne Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

If they gave prize for effort, Sammy J And The Forest Of Dreams would scoop the lot for this Herculean endeavour. A full cast of puppets has been created for this epic comedy fairytale, with a full musical score and charming visual effects.

It would seem almost churlish to want this big production number to be funny too, but it is – and frequently hilariously so – with its knowing subversion of the conventions of whimsical storytelling, a gloriously light touch and brilliantly unpredictable gags.

The production owes more to the adult muppets of Avenue Q than it does to any saccharine Disney fantasy. Should you be in any doubt about that, the opening song is called: ‘Fuck you, Disney’ – and marvellously catchy it is too.

From there, the scrawny Sammy J falls into a magical porthole and into the Forest Of Dreams, where he encounters sarcastic enchanted flora, sexually depraved monarchs and some weird blue-headed thing, among others All are magnificently over-the-top comic creations in their own right, providing a surfeit of uproarious lines and silly voices. Never underestimate that devastating combination – as the result is 75 minutes of filthy, frenetic and gloriously funny foam-based shenanigans, pulled off with style.

The adventures are played out as an ambitious full-blown production, even though it is only Sammy J and his amazingly talented, and unseen, puppeteer Heath McIvor behind it all. With their faultless comic performances, they bring a playful spontaneity to everything, even ad libbing as the puppets when required. It’s perfectly pitched, ensuring the irony never overwhelms the sense of fun,

The energy flags only once, when it’s establishing the plot that the hedonistic king is despotically exploiting all the woodland folk, but otherwise the jokes are frequent and unpredictable.

Chances are you’ve never seen anything quite like this – at least not yet. Tthis joyful romp has got cult stage hit written all over it. West End, here it comes!

Review date: 21 Jun 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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